Democrats seek to overturn age discrimination ruling

Kathy Woods Oct. 8, 2009, 12:00pm

Patrick Leahy (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Legislation pending in Congress would override U.S. Supreme Court decisions relating to age discrimination and the Federal Arbitration Act.

Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Rep. George Miller of California say the legislation will restore vital civil rights protections for older workers.

In June, the nation's highest court made it more difficult for workers to prove age discrimination.

In its ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, the justices held that a worker's age could not simply be a "motivating factor" in an employment decision. The court said it had to be the decisive cause for workplace discrimination protections to take effect.

The Protecting Older Workers against Discrimination Act is aimed at restoring fairness in the workplace, supporters say. Under the legislation, the employer would be the one who had to prove that age was not the "motivating factor" behind an employment decision.

Supporters of the bill include: AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Senior Citizen's Law Center and the National Women's Law Center.

In the second Supreme Court case, the justices held that employers may put an arbitration clause in the employment contract.

"When President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law earlier this year, he reminded us of the real world impact of Supreme Court decisions on workplace rights," Leahy said. "He said that 'justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook - it's about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.'"

Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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