House passes bill to ease standards for age discrimination cases

Bonnie Cash

The House passed legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier for people to make claims alleging age discrimination in the workplace.

Lawmakers passed the bill in a 247-178 vote largely along party lines, although 29 Republicans joined all Democrats in support.

The bill would effectively reject a 2009 Supreme Court decision, Gross v. FBL Financial Services, which held that people bringing age discrimination claims must prove that it was the decisive factor in an employment decision. Instead, workers alleging discrimination would only have to demonstrate that it was a motivating factor, even if other factors were involved.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) argued it would help protect older workers who are more prone to age discrimination.

Nearly two thirds of Americans age 45 and older have either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

“Clearly, our labor market and economy cannot fully recover from the pandemic if we fail to support our older workers,” Scott said.

Under the legislation, courts could grant declaratory and injunctive relief in any claims in which an individual shows that age discrimination was a motivating factor but the employer demonstrates that it would have taken the same action regardless. But the courts could not award damages or require reinstatements or promotions in such cases.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said the legislation was “a classic example of a solution in search of a problem” given that age discrimination in the workplace is already illegal.

“This legislation enriches trial lawyers, not plaintiffs,” Foxx said. “Allowing mixed-motive claims in cases alleging retaliation puts employers in the impossible position of trying to prove that a legitimate employment decision was not in response to a prior complaint.”

The House has also recently passed other bills meant to help protect workers from discrimination and violence.

Last month, the House passed bipartisan legislation to ensure that workplaces provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as giving them seats and exempting them from lifting heavy objects.

And in April, the House approved a bill to require employers in the health care and social services sectors to establish workplace violence prevention plans, given that workers in those fields are more likely to suffer injuries from violence on the job.

Tags Bobby Scott Virginia Foxx
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