Age Discrimination in Employment Act at risk, but there is hope

The New York Times recently featured an article focused on the attempts of three senators, one republican and two democrat, to combat age discrimination with the passage of a bill, which would overrule a Supreme Court ruling from 2009.  Clearly this issue is vital since New York City has a very high percentage of residents over the age of 40.  Now, two Iowa Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have joined forces with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), to introduce legislation that restores imperative civil rights protections for workers over the age of 40 that were limited following the Supreme Court’s disproportionately unfair decision in Gross v. FBL Financial.

In Gross, the Supreme Court did away with established precedent that had applied for standards of proof the Supreme Court first set out in construing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).  Unjustifiably, the Court found that because Congress did not amend the ADEA to include this changed standard when it codified the standard for sex, national origin, religion, and race claims as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the standard did not apply to age discrimination claims.  Because of this minor discrepancy, the Supreme Court opinion has also had harmful impacts in a wide range of civil cases in addition to age discrimination, including discrimination based on disability.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will reverse the Court’s decision and restore the law so that older workers in this country enjoy the full protections of the law.  All workers, including older Americans, have value to the fabric of our society and our economy and they deserve the protections Congress initially intended.

This act will ultimately perform the following functions:

• The Act reverses the Gross decision and reestablishes the law to what it was originally intended to be.  The Act reaffirms that if discrimination was a “motivating factor” behind an employment decision, the burden is appropriately on the employer to show it obeyed with the law.

• The Act reestablishes that this “motivating factor” structure applies to all anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws involving sex, national origin, race, religion, disability and age – treating all workers, and all forms of discrimination, equally.

If you believe you or your family member was and/or has been discriminated against in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Risman & Risman, P.C. at (212) 233-6400 or contact us online.

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