Proposal could reduce age discrimination in the workplace

Older workers in Tennessee may face greater protection in the workplace if a bipartisan proposal makes its way through Congress and becomes a law. Sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat each in the House and Senate, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will make it less difficult for workers to claim age discrimination.

In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that a worker had to demonstrate that they were fired or demoted because of age discrimination. Prior to that ruling, employers had borne the burden of giving a reason for dismissing or demoting older workers. If POWADA passes, employees will only be required to show that age discrimination occurred. Furthermore, they will only need to show that age discrimination was a factor in the employer's actions and not the entire reason for being dismissed or demoted.

While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was put in place in 1967, enforcing it has been difficult. Age discrimination can take many forms and may include joking about a person's cognitive abilities or appearance. It can also happen during the hiring process. Employers may post job ads that have thinly veiled code words meant to only target younger applicants.

An older worker who believes they have experienced workplace discrimination based on age may want to consult an attorney to discuss what steps to take. Age discrimination can be something that is practiced on a company-wide basis, so there might be other employees or job seekers who are also affected. An attorney may explain how to document the discrimination, follow up through workplace channels and file a claim if the company is not responsive. The attorney may also help a client in negotiations with the company.

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