Collins, Casey, Grassley, Leahy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Older Workers from Discrimination

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA). The legislation would restore the ability of older workers to take legal action when age discrimination affected their professional opportunities. Additionally, it would reaffirm that workers may use any type of admissible evidence to prove their claims.

“Older employees bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the workplace, and we should do all we can to ensure that these employees are able to participate fully in the workforce,” Senator Collins said. “I have advocated for many measures that would help end workplace discrimination, and as the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, it is a high priority of mine to ensure that seniors have the ability to do their jobs without facing age-related bias.”

“Since the Great Recession, too many Americans in their 50’s and 60’s have had difficulty receiving a fair shot in the workforce,” Senator Casey said. “This legislation will make sure that older Americans have the tools to fight back against any age discrimination. These are the Americans that have fought our wars and raised the nation’s children and they should not face age discrimination in the job market.”

A Supreme Court ruling in 2009 held that age discrimination claims must prove that discrimination was not just a motivating factor but the sole or overriding factor in an adverse employment decision. This put a higher burden on older workers alleging age discrimination than on those alleging discrimination based on race, sex, national origin or religion. The legislation would level the playing field for older workers by restoring the pre-2009 legal standards for age discrimination claims, ensuring that everyone has equal access to the courts and reinforcing the essential principle that no amount of age discrimination is acceptable in the workplace.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). While the ADEA marked an important step in protecting older workers from discrimination and has provided essential protections to millions of workers for decades, discrimination on the basis of age remains a significant problem. A 2013 AARP study found that almost two in three workers ages 45-74 reported experiencing age discrimination in the work place. Age discrimination is a key reason why many older Americans have trouble finding work after a period of unemployment and why many who are employed get paid less than their younger counterparts.

AARP has endorsed this legislation, and in a letter supporting its introduction in 2013, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said, “Until Congress passes this bill, too many older workers who have been victims of age discrimination will be denied a fair shake in our justice system. . . . The persistence of age discrimination in its many forms remains a significant barrier to older Americans’ retirement security.”