October 06, 2009

CARDIN BACKS LANDMARK LEGISLATION TO PROTECT OLDER AMERICANS FROM DISCRIMINATION

"Civil Rights Protections Do Not Have An Age Limit."

 

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today joined his colleagues, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), in introducing landmark legislation that restores vital civil rights protections for older workers in the face of the Supreme Court's decision in Gross v. FBL Financial .  Congressman George Miller (D-CA), also introduced the measure in the House.
 
In Gross , the Supreme Court rewrote civil rights laws, overturning well-established precedent and making it harder for workers facing age discrimination to enforce their rights.  The Court ruled that it is no longer enough for a victim of discrimination to prove that age was a motivating factor in an adverse employment decision.  An employee must now prove that it was the decisive factor.  The Court's holding specifically means that victims of age discrimination face a higher burden than those alleging race, sex, national origin or religious discrimination.  The opinion has already had reverberations in a wide range of civil rights cases beyond age discrimination. 
 
"Protecting Americans from discrimination in the workplace should never have an age limit or expiration date. Americans are living longer and working longer. Ideally, this provides more opportunities for older citizens in the workplace, not less. Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to step in and restore the basic protections and civil rights that have been slowly chipped away by the Supreme Court in decisions like Gross v. FBL Financial. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will codify these protections, sheltering them from the Court's misinterpretation," said Senator Cardin.
 
"For more than fifty years, AARP has been fighting against age discrimination and working to promote the value and experience older workers bring to the job. AARP is proud to endorse this legislation, and we urge Congress to quickly approve this bill as a critical first step to restore protections under our age discrimination laws," said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.
 
The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will restore fundamental fairness.
The Act reverses the Gross decision and restores the law to what it was for decades before the Court rewrote the rule.  The Act makes clear that when a victim shows discrimination was a "motivating factor" behind a decision, the burden is properly on the employer to show it complied with the law.  
 
The Act is modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis 93-5.  Among other things, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 codified the "motivating factor" framework for race, sex, national origin and religion discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  
 
The Act makes clear that this "motivating factor" framework applies to all anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws - treating all workers, and all forms of discrimination, equally.
 
Senators Durbin (D-IL), Specter (D-PA), Kohl (D-WI), Schumer (D-NY), Franken (D-MN), Sanders (I-VT), Brown (D-OH), Merkley (D-OR), Feinstein (D-CA) and Dodd (D-CT) also are original co-sponsors of the bill. It is supported by the AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the National Women's Law Center.