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Older Kentuckians want protections against age discrimination

Older Kentuckians strongly support bipartisan legislation to fight age discrimination 


Older Kentuckians overwhelmingly support bipartisan legislation to combat age discrimination in the workplace, a new AARP survey shows.

The poll last month of registered voters 50 and older found a remarkable 82 percent favor passage of the bipartisan "Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act" (POWADA).

Significantly, 60 percent of ALL those interviewed said they "strongly" endorsed the bill.  In contrast, only 10 percent oppose passage, the survey reported.

"This AARP survey confirms what Kentuckians knows: huge majorities demand fairness for older workers," said Jim Kimbrough, AARP Kentucky State President.” And that support bridges all political ideologies as confirmed by the survey’s finding that at nearly 80% of moderates, liberals, and conservatives endorse POWADA.”

The legislation, sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), is designed to overturn a divided (5-4) U.S. Supreme Court decision (Gross v. FBL Financial Services) that made it much more difficult  for older workers to prove claims of illegal bias based on age.

The survey found that 28 percent of Kentuckians reported that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination.

The Gross decision substantially heightened the standard that older workers must meet in order to prove that his or her employer violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Unfortunately, the decision means many older workers will never see their day in court, and it is now being applied by some courts to restrict the rights of employees in other types of employment discrimination cases too. Last summer, the Supreme Court extended the decision to cases when an employer retaliates against the employee for challenging discrimination.

For decades, if an older worker showed that age was one motivating factor in an adverse employment decision, even if other motives also played a role, the employer had to prove that it would have made the same decision without considering the employee’s age. Since the Gross decision, employees instead must prove that the employer would not have taken the adverse action "but for" their age -- in other words, that age played the determining role -- a significantly higher standard of proof.

The legislation would restore the old standard and help ensure that employees have a more level playing field when fighting age discrimination in court.

The AARP survey of 504 Kentuckians conducted by telephone from April, 8 to April 14, found 95percent think older Americans should be protected from age discrimination just like they are from sex or race discrimination, and 89percent agreed that "Congress needs to do more to ensure people over 50 continue to have an equal opportunity to work for as long as they want or need to - regardless of their age."

The age discrimination bill is gaining traction at a difficult time for older workers. National unemployment has recently declined somewhat, but it remains high. And the average length of unemployment between jobs for older workers is nearly a year.  Of those polled in Kentucky, 80 percent said they believe "age would be an obstacle to finding work."

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