Three years ago, in a decision widely viewed as a setback for older Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court made it significantly more difficult for workers to win many age discrimination cases.
Now, three senators — two Democrats and a Republican — are leading a renewed push on Capitol Hill (PDF) to restore what had been the accepted standard of work-related age discrimination for more than two decades. They’re aiming to make the burden of proof under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act the same as alleged discrimination based on race, sex, national origin or religion.
The Supreme Court decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services “made the bar to prove age discrimination so high and so much more difficult,” says Deborah Chalfie, a senior legislative representative for AARP, which is actively supporting the legislation.
The court made the decision “without any rationale or justification,” says Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat from the plaintiff’s home state of Iowa. He and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa’s other senator, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are sponsors of the legislation, which is called the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.
Jack Gross, the plaintiff in the case, has been lobbying for the legislation because “the laws need to be restored so we can get the level playing field back for all workers. I want to make sure others in similar situations don’t get treated like I was.”
You may also like: Jack Gross talks about his discrimination case.