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Congressman Scott Wants to Eliminate Age Discrimination in the Workplace

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Should older workers have a higher burden to prove age discrimination? One Virginia congressman says no, and he’s moving forward with a bill to do something about it.

Back in the 1960's, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill to protect older Americans from age discrimination in the workplace. But a five-to-four decision on the Supreme Court undermined that law, requiring individuals to prove that age discrimination was the sole motivating cause rather than just one motivating factor.

Congressman Bobby Scott says that’s wrong.

“For older Americans, age discrimination is a significant barrier to opportunities. And when older workers lose their jobs they are far more likely than other workers to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed,” he explains.

That’s why he introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would reinstate the mixed-motive test.

"And that’s pretty significant. It would dramatically open up a large number of possible age discrimination claims,” says legal expert Rich Kelsey.

He says the bill would align the burden of proof for age discrimination with the standard for proving discrimination based on sex, race, religion and national origin.

“One of the primary drivers behind the congressman’s actions is to make this test uniform with other types of discrimination, including national origin discrimination,” he explains.

Bobby Scott, a Democrat from southeast Virginia, is working with Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin to get the bill to the House floor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.