Earlier this summer the House Judiciary Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held hearings on H.R. 3721, a/k/a the “Protecting Older Workers From Discrimination Act” (POWADA), which was introduced in the wake of the Supreme Court’s controversial 5-4 decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. In the decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court held that under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a plaintiff pursuing a disparate treatment claim for age discrimination must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the employee would not have suffered an adverse employment action “but for” his age. The Court held that the text of the ADEA did not authorize “mixed motives” claims, and that the burden of persuasion does not shift to the employer, even when there is evidence that the plaintiff’s age was a motivating factor in the adverse decision.
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