Langevin Votes to Strengthen Workplace Protections for Older Americans

Jan 15, 2020 Issues: Disabilities, Economy and Jobs

WASHINGTON -- Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) voted today in favor of H.R. 1230, the Protect Older Workers Against Age Discrimination Act, which aims to strengthen workplace protections for older Americans by restoring the longstanding burden of proof for discrimination claims, including workplace age or disability discrimination. Earlier in the day, the Congressman spoke on the House floor in support of the legislation. The bill passed the House by a vote of 261-155.

“It’s unacceptable that the number of older Americans experiencing discrimination in the workplace is on the rise,” said Langevin. “Congress should be advocating for hard-working people who contribute to the success of our nation. With Rhode Island’s aging population, we need to reverse the misguided Supreme Court decision that is making it harder for Americans to make a living and support their loved ones.

“Even more disheartening is the effect age discrimination has on disabled workers. People with disabilities already face significant barriers to competitive, integrated employment, and we cannot allow another barrier to remain in their way,” continued Langevin. “The goal should be to level the playing field and preserve a path for older Americans and people with disabilities that leads them to financial stability and independence.”

A 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling changed the burden of proof on employees alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The prior “mixed-motive” standard required the complaining party to only prove that age was one of the motivating factors behind the employer’s adverse action like employment termination. Under the 2009 ruling, those alleging age discrimination must now prove it was the decisive and determinative cause for action, not just a motivating factor, which can be very challenging for workers. The 2009 standard is also different than what is required for workplace discrimination claims based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. According to a study, more than six in 10 workers ages 45 to 74 report seeing or experiencing age discrimination on the job.

“Job security is critical for self-sufficiency, but the data shows a clear rise in older individuals either losing employment or facing daunting challenges to reenter the workforce because of bias,” said Langevin. “This is an alarming trend to say the least and highlights the need for this bipartisan legislation. Even more, with Americans working later in their lives this is vital to shielding those who may experience age-related health changes. From high healthcare costs to employment barriers, seniors and people with disabilities face enough challenges that are pushing them to the brink. As a nation, we should strive for reforms that protects their rights and prevents their exploitation and abuse.”