House Passes Age Discrimination Bill

January 31, 2020

A clear bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives approved legislation that would make it easier for employees to show that discrimination or retaliation was a reason behind an employer’s decision to fire, demote, or take other adverse actions against them.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230) could also broaden other employment laws, despite its titular application to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

In a memorandum to policymakersRoger King, HR Policy Association Senior Labor and Employment Counsel, argued, “the only beneficiaries from H.R. 1230 would appear to be plaintiffs’ attorneys,” and that the bill will increase litigation and settlement costs for retaliation claims where legitimate nondiscriminatory employment actions were taken.

The House Committee Report minority view reads:  “Unfortunately, Committee Democrats have chosen to promote their pro-trial lawyer agenda by advancing legislation that masquerades as a protection for a specific group of workers.  H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, is yet another example of a one-size-fits-all federal mandate that disregards real-world workplace experience and decades of Supreme Court precedent.”

What happens next:  With the Senate otherwise occupied, the chances the bill moves in that chamber are slim to none.  Bill sponsor Bobby Scott (D-VA), who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, admitted as much in recent comments.  However, the bill’s long history (it was first introduced in 2009), some Republican support in the House, and two Republican cosponsors for the Senate version of the bill suggest that regardless of the outcome this Congress, the measure will continue to gather support in the years ahead.