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Rep. Courtney Helps Pass Legislation to Protect Older Workers Against Discrimination

January 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, voted to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230), a bipartisan bill that would restore older workers’ right to fight back against age discrimination. Rep. Courtney is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1230, which passed the House on a bipartisan basis by a margin of 261-155.

“The population of working Americans aged 60 and over is growing nationwide, and eastern Connecticut is fortunate to be home to a large number of those seniors,” said Congressman Courtney. “They absolutely shouldn’t be denied opportunities because of their age, but a 2009 Supreme Court decision has weakened their ability to fight back when they face this type of discrimination at work. Age discrimination is just as wrong as other forms of employment discrimination, and the bill we passed in the House today would restore the standard of proof in these cases back to the pre-2009 level – on-par with the burden of proof used in all other cases of alleged employment discrimination today. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill on behalf of all of our hardworking seniors in eastern Connecticut, and to help pass it today.”

In 2009, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc. erected new and substantial legal barriers in the path of older workers, imposing a much higher burden of proof on workers alleging age discrimination. Prior to the 2009 decision, older workers alleging discrimination faced the same burden of proof as those who allege discrimination based on sex, national origin, or religion, where the injured party needed only prove that age was one the motivating factors behind an employer’s adverse actions. The higher burden of proof brought on by the 2009 decision requires older workers alleging age discrimination to prove that age was the decisive and determinative cause for the employer’s adverse action, rather than just a motivating factor.

H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, returns the burden of proof for workers alleging discrimination back to the pre-2009 burden of proof applied in discrimination cases, restoring it back to the same standard used for alleged discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religion.

The legislation is supported by a host of organizations representing older Americans in the workforce, including the AARP, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, the National Council on Aging, Justice in Aging, AAUW, the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the National Disability Institute, Easterseals, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Education Association, AFSCME, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic  Social Justice, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and more.