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Are older people out of work in Maryland due to discrimination?

Age is one of the protected classes under employment law, meaning that people cannot be discriminated against in the workplace or in hiring decisions. However, many older unemployed Maryland residents would likely tell you that age discrimination is a major problem that greatly affects the chances of those over 40 to find employment.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 outlaws age discrimination against those who are 40 and older. This applies to hiring and firing, job assignments, wages, promotions, training, and all other aspects of employment. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to prove age discrimination, which allows it to remain somewhat prevalent here in the Metro Washington, D.C., area. Because of this, a bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to further protect workers from age discrimination, and it has gained support by at least one Maryland lawmaker.

The bill is called the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act and it would essentially amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act so that employees or job applicants could file what are called "mixed motive" discrimination claims.

A mixed motive claim is one that states that age was a motivating factor for an employer's action--such as job termination, or failure to hire, for example--but that other motivating factors existed, too.

Therefore, the complainant would not have to prove age was the only reason for a certain type of treatment. This, and some other changes, would make it simpler for a person to prove that he or she was discriminated against due to age.

The future of this bill is unclear, but it is apparent that something must be done to protect the employment rights of older Americans. According to a recent AARP study, about half of unemployed baby boomers believe that age discrimination is an employment barrier.

Source: AARP, "More Bipartisan Support to Fight Age Discrimination," Deb Silverberg, Sept. 27, 2012

Source: govtrack.us, "S.2189: Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act," March 13, 2012

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