The bill simply adds 'applicants' to existing age discrimination protections.
The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would protect older job applicants from employment discrimination — but the vast majority of Republicans voted against it.
By a vote of 224-200, the House approved the Protect Older Job Applicants Act, a bill written explicitly to protect job applicants from age discrimination. Every Democratic member present and seven Republicans voted yes; the remaining 200 Republicans all voted no.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects workers over age 40 from employment discrimination solely based on their age. But Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), the author of H.R. 3992, the current bill, noted that some recent court rulings have restricted those protections to only those already employed and do not cover people applying for jobs.
"Ageism is still very much present in our society. Unfortunately, this negatively affects older Americans who are seeking to return to the workforce or transition into new careers," she said in a June press release, adding that more than three-quarters of older American workers "see age discrimination as a barrier to attaining a job," according to a 2020 AARP study.
But House Republicans argued that by banning discrimination, the bill might somehow actually hurt applicants. They also objected to the fact that people might hire attorneys to bring their discrimination cases to court.
When the House Education and Labor Committee reported the bill in September, the Republican members of the committee complained in the minority views accompanying the report, "Committee Democrats are again rushing forward with ill-advised legislation that promotes their pro-trial lawyer agenda and harms job seekers." They dismissed the legislation as "yet another example of a federal mandate that ignores the real-world job market and that will make it harder for Americans to find jobs."
On Thursday, Republicans proposed an amendment that would require a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office "to determine whether not allowing claims of disparate impact discrimination by applicants for employment under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 has a significant negative impact on such applicants, and provides that if the results of the study show there is not a significant negative impact on such applicants, then the Act shall not take effect."
Last year, the House passed a bill that would have expanded job protections for older workers — though 154 Republicans and a conservative independent opposed it on the grounds that it might mean a "trial-lawyer payday," as Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) argued. Like hundreds of other bills, it died without ever getting a vote in the Senate under then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
After the House vote on the current bill, Garcia tweeted, "Now I call on my Senate colleagues to move quickly and send #POJA to @POTUS's desk. We will get this done and protect older workers from discrimination."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.