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Oregon Legislators Push to Tackle Age Discrimination

Older Oregonians say age discrimination is prevalent in the workplace. (AARP Oregon)
Older Oregonians say age discrimination is prevalent in the workplace. (AARP Oregon)
March 14, 2019

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure to combat age discrimination in the workplace, and when older people are looking for jobs.

House Bill 2818 received a hearing on Wednesday and would strengthen laws prohibiting age discrimination.

A recent AARP survey finds this is prevalent in Oregon. More than 60 percent of respondents say they've experienced or seen bias in the workplace and the same percentage of older workers say they've been asked for age-related information in the application or interview process.

State Rep. Carla Piluso, a Democrat from Gresham, says age discrimination isn't being taken seriously, but it's a serious issue for older Oregonians.

"It can lead to people having fewer resources in retirement and oftentimes having to rely on the state social services in order to fully participate and support themselves," she states.

Piluso says she's also concerned this issue disproportionately affects women.

The bill currently is in the House Committee on Business and Labor.

Employment attorney Matthew Ellis of Portland testified in favor of HB 2818 on Wednesday. He says age discrimination is one of the most common complaints he hears, but notes that employers know that it's difficult to prove in court.

"They oftentimes will make fairly blatant decisions based on age or based on characteristics closely associated with age, banking on that very few people are going to come forward and fight these sorts of claims," he points out.

Ellis says some of the characteristics associated with age include pension status and years of history working for a certain employer, and employers under current law can consider those factors without consequences.

"If an employer makes a decision on those bases, there's a pretty decent argument that that's not age discrimination, even if it only affects older workers,” he explains. “In Oregon, we want to make it clear that that won't stand."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR