Hurd, Katko, Collins introduce bipartisan, bicameral bill to clarify federal employment claims

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and John Katko (R-NY) on Feb. 14 cosponsored bicameral, bipartisan legislation that would clarify appropriate standards for federal employment discrimination and retaliation claims.

“Older employees bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the workplace,” said Sen. Collins, chairman of the U.S. Senate Aging Committee, on Tuesday. “We should do all we can to ensure that these employees are not faced with age-related bias while doing their jobs.”

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, H.R. 1230/S 485, sponsored in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), would strengthen anti-discrimination protections for America’s older workers, lawmakers said, and ensure there aren’t additional barriers when they file discrimination claims.  

“Discrimination based on age, race or gender has no place in today’s workplace,” Rep. Hurd said. “I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill that ensures equitable standards for fighting unlawful employment practices based on discrimination so all of our nation’s workers can continue to support their families and help our businesses and economy thrive.”

Older workers who lose their jobs are more likely than other workers to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed largely due to age discrimination, according to a one-page fact sheet on H.R. 1230 provided by the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.

In fact, the committee cited enforcement statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) showing that the EEOC in 2017 received more than 20,000 complaints – or 23 percent of all discrimination charges filed – compared to the 16,000 charges of age discrimination the commission received in 2000.

And last year, AARP found that three in five workers aged 45 years and older had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace and that 75 percent of older workers blamed age discrimination for a lack of confidence in landing a new job. 

“Discrimination shuts too many people out of good paying jobs. All Americans – regardless of their age – should be able to go to work every day knowing that they are protected from discrimination,” said Rep. Scott, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. 

The proposed bill, Scott said, “is a step toward restoring the rights of older workers.”

Rep. Katko added that older Americans shouldn’t face such discrimination during the hiring process and the proposed bill would bolster protections to provide them with “the safeguards they deserve.”

“I will continue to advocate for the rights of American workers and am proud to support this initiative this Congress,” said Rep. Katko.

The measure would amend four laws: the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to ensure all victims of discrimination, including older workers, would have their claims “adjudicated fairly without the affirmative obligation of refuting every purported nondiscriminatory motive offered by the wrongdoer for his or her discriminatory action,” according to the House committee’s fact sheet.

Specifically, the proposed bill would “level the playing field for older workers” and would restore a pre-2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to reinstate “the legitimacy of so-called ‘mixed-motive’ claims in which discrimination is a, if not the deciding, factor,” according to a Senate fact sheet. 

If enacted, the bill also would also reaffirm that workers may use any type of admissible evidence to prove their claims, the Senate fact sheet explains.

“We commend these lawmakers for sponsoring this crucial legislation,” said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer at AARP. “Too many older workers have been victims of unfair age discrimination and are denied a fair shake in our justice system.

“The time for Congress to act is now,” LeaMond said. 

H.R. 1230 is under consideration by the House Education and Labor Committee while S. 485 is being reviewed by the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.