154 House Republicans oppose bill to protect older Americans from discrimination


The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act restores workers' ability to file lawsuits against their employers.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill, 261-155, to protect older Americans from job discrimination.

All Democrats present and 34 Republicans voted yes.

154 Republicans and one Independent, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, opposed the bipartisan measure, arguing that it might instead help discrimination-law attorneys.

Since the implementation of the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act, most workers over the age of 40 have been protected against employment discrimination solely on the basis of age. But a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2009 held that older Americans must prove that age discrimination was the sole motivating factor, not just a significant consideration, in order to sue under the law.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) last year called the ruling "harmful" and said it "made it easier for businesses to discriminate against individuals based on age."

On Wednesday, the House approved a legislative fix, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230). It would once again allow victims of discrimination to file lawsuits in cases where there is a "mixed-motive," but age discrimination is significant factor.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), told Virginia Public Radio last year that it was a crucial piece of legislation, because "when older workers lose their jobs they are far more likely than other workers to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed."

The bill's 91 cosponsors included longtime Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and several other Republicans.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) helped spearhead the GOP opposition.  Last June, she charged that the Committee on Education and Labor's Democratic majority had ulterior motives, among them a "trial-lawyer payday."

"It seems Committee Democrats are looking for very specific 'funding streams' to ensure payouts to trial lawyers who specialize in [representing older American workers]," she claimed.

Like all House-passed legislation, the bill now faces an uphill battle in Mitch McConnell's GOP-controlled Senate. The Trump administration also put out a statement on Monday, opposing the bill.

"Instead of protecting older workers, the bill would enrich trial lawyers and make it harder to identify and address genuine discrimination," it claimed, noting that if the bill passes, Trump's senior staff would recommend a veto.

Trump has shown little concern for assisting older Americans since taking office, even undermining critical nursing home and eldercare protections under pressure from lobbyists.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.