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Congress Closer to Addressing Age Discrimination

By 2024, 41 million people ages 55 and older are projected to be in the labor force, nearly an 8% increase from the current number. (Pxfuel)
By 2024, 41 million people ages 55 and older are projected to be in the labor force, nearly an 8% increase from the current number. (Pxfuel)
January 23, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Legislation to protect older workers in Nebraska and around the nation from discrimination in the workplace heads to the U.S. Senate after the House passed the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act last week.

Todd Stubbendieck, state director of AARP Nebraska, says ensuring that age discrimination is treated as seriously as other forms of workplace discrimination is good for workers and businesses.

"These older workers are highly productive, highly skilled, highly trained, and these are the folks that you want to have in your business and you want to have working for you," he states. "What they bring to a job and to a workplace is something that really can't be replaced."

Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Lincoln, and Don Bacon, R-Omaha, voted for the bipartisan bill in the House, and Stubbendieck says he hopes the state's Senate delegation will join the effort to combat age discrimination.

Critics of the measure maintain its primary purpose is to fill the pockets of trial lawyers.

In 2017, more than 20,000 complaints of age discrimination were filed in the U.S., according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A 2018 AARP survey found that three in five workers age 45 and older had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

Stubbendieck says the bill would restore longstanding protections under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which covers workers 40 and older.

"And again, sort of putting age discrimination on the same level as discrimination based on race, gender or religion," he states. "So we're just leveling the playing field for older Americans."

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would reinstate protections lost in a 2009 Supreme Court decision, where the court ruled that older Americans had to prove that discrimination based on age was the only factor, not just a significant factor, in order to seek justice in court.

Disclosure: AARP Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE