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Older Americans Strongly Support Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Age Discrimination

Older Americans overwhelmingly support bipartisan legislation to combat age discrimination in the workplace, a new AARP survey shows


June 21, 2012

CONTACT:  Dave Nathan


Older Americans Strongly Support Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Age Discrimination 

En Español| Washington, DC - Older Americans overwhelmingly support bipartisan legislation to combat age discrimination in the workplace, a new AARP survey shows.


The poll last month of 1000 registered voters 50 and older found a remarkable 78 percent favor passage of the bipartisan "Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act" (POWADA).


 Significantly, 53 percent of ALL those interviewed said they "strongly" endorsed the bill.  In contrast, only eleven percent oppose passage, the survey reported.


 "This AARP survey confirms what America knows: huge majorities demand fairness for older workers," said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President of AARP. ”And that support bridges all political ideologies” as confirmed by the survey’s finding that at least three-fourths of moderates, liberals, and conservatives endorse POWADA.


 The legislation, sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Senators Tom Harkin and Patrick Leahy is designed to overturn a divided (5-4) U.S. Supreme Court decision (Gross v. FBL Financial Services) that made it much more difficult  for older workers to prove claims of illegal bias based on age.


The survey found that over one-third reported that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination. 


The Gross decision substantially toughened the standard that older workers must meet in order to prove that his or her employer violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Unfortunately, the decision means many older workers will never see their day in court, and it is now being applied by some courts to restrict the rights of employees in other types of employment discrimination cases too. For example, a federal court of appeals in Cincinnati applied the Gross ruling to limit rights to challenge disability-based bias under federal law.


 For decades, if an older worker showed that age was one motivating factor in an adverse employment decision, even if other motives also played a role, the employer had to prove that it would have made the same decision without considering the employee’s age. Since the Gross decision, employees instead must prove that the employer would not have taken the adverse action "but for" their age -- in other words, that age played the determining role -- a significantly higher standard of proof.


The legislation would restore the old standard and help ensure that employees have a more level playing field when fighting age discrimination in court. 


The AARP survey, conducted by telephone from May 14 to May 20, found 91 percent think older Americans should be protected from age discrimination just as they are from sex or race discrimination, and 84 percent agreed that "Congress needs to do more to ensure people over 50 continue to have an equal opportunity to work for as long as they want or need to - regardless of their age."


 Once again, only thirteen percent opposed Congressional action, the survey said.


 The age discrimination bill is gaining traction at a difficult time for older workers. Unemployment has declined somewhat since the official end of the Great Recession in 2009, but it remains high. And the average length of unemployment between jobs for older workers is at an all-time high -- well over a year.  Of those polled, 77 percent said they believe "age would be an obstacle to finding work."




AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.1 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, our bilingual multimedia platform for Hispanic members; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


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