WASHINGTON—AARP announced today its endorsement of the bipartisan “Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act” (POWADA) that would strengthen federal protections of older workers. AARP praised the bipartisan leadership of Representatives Bobby Scott (VA-03), chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, and Rodney Davis (IL-13) who introduced the bill on Thursday. This bipartisan legislation is a companion to a Senate bill introduced by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
“The introduction of this bill is a crucial step to strengthening the law and restoring fairness for older workers who experience age discrimination,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer. “It sends a clear message that discrimination in the workplace – against older workers or others – is never acceptable.
POWADA was first introduced, with AARP backing, after an adverse 2009 Supreme Court decision (Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.) that made it much more difficult for older workers to prove claims of illegal bias based on age. The legislation would restore longstanding protections under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which covers workers ages 40 and over.
A joint House Education and Labor Subcommittee hearing today on POWADA heard testimony from Laurie McCann, senior attorney at AARP Foundation, who pointed out that age discrimination in the workplace remains “stubbornly persistent” and urged a House Education and Labor hearing today to “re-level the playing field” by passing strong anti-bias legislation.
McCann told the committee that the pandemic has exacerbated the problems faced by older workers, who have left the labor force in the last year at twice the rate during the Great Recession.
McCann testified that passage of POWADA is crucial to reverse the 2009 Supreme Court decision in the Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. case. McCann said that the high court’s 2009 decision abruptly changed the standard — from the longstanding requirement under the ADEA that a worker prove that age is just one motivating factor in adverse treatment on the job — to a much higher and tougher to prove standard: that age is the standard motive.
“Older workers now always bear the burden of persuasion in ADEA cases,” McCann emphasized.
McCann’s testimony was before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services and the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
The hearing comes at a time when older workers have been battered by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Unemployment for workers age 55 and older more than doubled between February 2020, just before the pandemic began, and last month, based on AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) analysis of federal data. The number of age 55 and over unemployed has also doubled, up from one million in February, 2020, to two million last month, according to PPI.
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.