Boston – AARP Massachusetts praised Representatives Richard Neal, James McGovern, Lori Trahan, Joseph Kennedy, Katherine Clark, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Pressley, Stephen Lynch and William Keating for their vote yesterday for bipartisan legislation to combat age discrimination – the “Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act” (POWADA). The House of Representatives vote approving the bill is the most important action yet in the long drive toward passage.
“The entire Massachusetts House delegation has joined with others in sending a clear message that age discrimination must be treated as seriously as other forms of workplace discrimination,” said Mike Festa, AARP Massachusetts State Director. “This vote is especially heartening for older workers, who make vital contributions to society and to their workplaces, and whose numbers are growing. The law must be strengthened because age discrimination is widespread, yet too often it goes unreported and unaddressed. AARP urges the Senate to take up and pass these important protections.”
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 aged 40 and over.
AARP also praised the bipartisan leadership of the House sponsors of POWADA (H.R. 1230), Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The House votes follow Education and Labor Committee action last spring, which included supportive testimony by AARP.
In the Senate, the bipartisan companion legislation (S.485) is sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Casey (D-PA).
The House action comes as older workers play an increasingly important role in the workforce. Estimates are that by 2024, 41 million people ages 55 and older will be in the labor force, nearly an eight percent increase from the current number. In addition, next year the oldest millennials will start turning 40 and then will be covered by the ADEA.
The percentage of those 65 and older in the workforce has been increasing incrementally for more than three decades, with more than one in five in that cohort currently working or seeking work.
At the same time, the 2018 AARP “Value of Experience” study showed that age discrimination remains alive and well. The survey found that 61 percent of older workers said they had either faced or observed age bias.
The 61 percent figure is consistent with past surveys on the question.