The U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that aims to bolster protections against age-related workplace discrimination. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act of 2023 (POWADA) would amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) to foster a more equitable and age-inclusive work environment. The bill would re-establish the traditional burden of proof standard for age discrimination claims in the workplace.
The ADEA prohibits discriminatory practices throughout the employment process, from hiring and promotion, to compensation and termination, while also prohibiting retaliation against employees who assert their rights under the law.
A pivotal hurdle with the ADEA’s current framework is its burden of proof standard for age discrimination claims. In the 2009 case Gross v. FBL Financial Services, the Supreme Court held that employees alleging age discrimination must prove that the discrimination itself was the sole factor in any adverse employment actions suffered. The previous standard only required age discrimination to account for at least one of the factors. The age discrimination standard now differs greatly in scope compared to other claims of discrimination, e.g., race, sex, national origin, and religion.
POWADA intends to return to the original standard of proof for age discrimination claims. Age will again only need to be one of the motivating factors of an adverse employment practice. This is often referred to as the “mixed motive” test.
POWADA would also include additional remedies for violations of the ADEA, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and costs. Injunctive relief would not include mandatory employer admissions, job reinstatement, hiring, promotion, or payment.
The bill would also define the term “demonstrates” to mean that employees claiming discrimination are meeting the burdens of production and persuasion. POWADA and its amendments would extend to federal government employees. The threshold employee count for employers with liability under POWADA and ADEA would remain unchanged at 20 employees.
Potomac Legal Group will continue to monitor this bill and any changes in the law that may impact your employment rights. Contact the experienced employment attorneys at Potomac Legal Group to discuss your age discrimination claims and how this proposed legislation might affect your claims.