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AR Survey: Age Discrimination a Problem; More Protection Needed

GRAPHIC: According to a new poll performed for AARP, many older Arkansans report age discrimination.  Graphic courtesy AARP.
GRAPHIC: According to a new poll performed for AARP, many older Arkansans report age discrimination. Graphic courtesy AARP.
April 22, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Older Arkansans overwhelmingly think age discrimination is a problem, an AARP survey shows, and almost all of them favor more legal protection. The poll taken last month spoke to registered Arkansas voters 50 and over. A large number said age discrimination is a reality in the workplace, and AARP state director Maria Reynolds-Diaz says nearly nine out of ten want Congress to do more to ensure people 50 and over have an equal opportunity to work regardless of their age.

"This is important to Arkansans," she declared. "Yes, older Americans should be protected from age discrimination. It should not be harder for them to prove that maybe they were let go because of age."

Reynolds-Diaz says "an astonishing" two-thirds of those surveyed believe older workers face discrimination. And she says more than one in four reported they or someone they know had suffered because of it. Almost all want political leaders to address it.

A 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision made it more difficult to sue for age discrimination. That ruling changed a long-standing legal standard that had allowed a worker to sue if age was a motivating factor for a firing. Now age has to be the determining factor.

"For more than 50 years we've worked to ensure that all Americans are judged on their abilities," she stated. "We believe that Congress should fix this unfair court decision that discriminates against older workers."

She says the poll shows support in the state is widespread.

"Our responses have been across party lines. No matter if you're conservative, you're moderate, you're liberal, this was the response of Arkansans across the board."

Reynolds-Diaz says The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) would restore the standard in place prior to the 2009 Supreme Court decision and help ensure older workers have a more level playing field.

The survey is at AARP.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR