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AARP Joins Connecticut Legislators in Bipartisan Support of Bill to Protect Older Workers from Age Discrimination

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AARP Connecticut State Director Nora Duncan joined State Senator Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) and a bipartisan group of legislators, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, and additional advocates at a press conference yesterday to announce support for a bill that prohibits employers from asking the date of birth, or school attendance and graduation dates of job applicants, unless a age is a bona fide occupational qualification.

With 436,000 workers in their mid-50’s, Connecticut has the sixth-oldest workforce in the nation, with a median age of 41 (as of 2017.) Just 20% of Connecticut employees were over the age 54 in 2008; today that figure is 26.5%, with the health care, manufacturing, educational services and retail trade industries employing the most workers age 54 and over.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, older workers will make up the fastest-growing segment of the workforce from 2014 to 2024,” said Duncan. “While age discrimination is illegal, we live in a society where age seems to be the last acceptable bias. Whether it’s intentional or not, knowing someone’s age can create bias that keeps a qualified job applicant from getting a fair chance at being considered for a position. This legislation reduces that risk and levels the playing field.”

A 2018 AARP survey found about 60% of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, and 76% of them see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job. Meanwhile, nearly a third of U.S. households headed by someone age 55 or older have no retirement savings or pension, meaning they will have to continue to work or rely on Social Security to survive financially.

“This bill will help close a very costly loophole for older workers in Connecticut who disproportionately face under-employment and unemployment,” said Sen. Slap. “No one should be vetted for a job based solely on their age. This bill will make our economy fairer and stronger.”

“Mature workers are the backbone of the modern-day workforce, providing skills, leadership and deep professional networks,” said Tom Long, Senior Vice President of Communications and Development for The WorkPlace in Bridgeport, which seeks to develop a well-educated, well-trained, and self-sufficient workforce to compete in today’s global marketplace. “Age does not define ability, and it is essential for employers to provide an opportunity for job candidates to demonstrate that their experience is an asset.”

“Today, no one walks into a business and asks for a job application. Everything is done online,” said state Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury), who is Senate chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. “Today we’re announcing our intention to make a real difference for older workers in Connecticut. They should be evaluated on the merits of their skills and experience. When an employer does that, Connecticut businesses are going to find a wealth of talent in the pool of older applicants. To rule someone out simply because of their age is not only wrong, it’s also bad for businesses.”

“House Bill 6113 may have run out of time last year, but my support in restricting employers from asking questions about an applicant’s date of birth and date of graduation on an initial employment application hasn’t wavered, especially with Connecticut having one of the nation’s oldest workforces” said state Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven), who is House Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. “Anything short of that is flirting with age discrimination, which is illegal. I would like to see, and I think it’s only fair, that employers focus on whether or not an applicant is qualified to do the job they’re applying for, rather than unfairly disqualifying them based on their age.”

“Age discrimination is real, and this legislation accomplishes many good things. I’ve been advocating for this for years,” said state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-Newtown). “First, it gets older workers in the door, considered, and interviewed on the strength of their work, not the date on their resume. Second, it’s important to know that it doesn’t mandate employers to do anything they don’t already do when considering their best-fit, new employees. In fact, it may help them meet some of the hardest-working, dedicated employees out there. Third, there’s a lot of current conversation about enriching Connecticut’s talent pool. Fact is, there is a wealth of talent in our state’s older workers, and this simple bill will showcase that.”

“While no legislation can by itself change the way people think, laws can influence what they do. Enacting this bill will remove an obstacle from an early stage of the hiring process,” said Bernie Weiss, vice president of the Seniors Job Bank, a non-profit community organization serving the Greater Hartford region, which has for 40 years connected men and women over 50 seeking work to businesses and households with work to be done.

“We cannot tolerate any kind of discrimination on any level, of any sort. Someone’s age on a job application should not be a determining factor on whether they receive an opportunity for employment,” said Rep. Dave Rutigliano (R-Trumbull). “Many seniors who live on fixed incomes look for part-time jobs or additional income due to the ever- rising costs and taxes in Connecticut. They should not be turned away based on their date of birth.”

The bill, which will be formally introduced once session begins in February, will be similar to a bill introduced last year, House Bill 6113, which passed the Labor Committee. That bill, also introduced by Sen. Slap, was co-sponsored by 36 other legislators.

Sen. Slap encourages anyone who may have been impacted by age discrimination during the hiring process, and who is willing to testify about that at a public hearing on the bill, to contact his legislative office at 860-240-1436.

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