OPPOSITION TO AGE DISCRIMINATION
WHEREAS, President Lyndon Johnson's Labor Secretary Willard Wirtz released a report showing substantial discrimination against older workers that led to the passage of the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and
WHEREAS, age discrimination complaints are soaring in the private and public sectors nationwide as the ranks of older workers increase exponentially; and
WHEREAS, age discrimination against older workers has been given a lower priority compared to other civil rights complaints; and
WHEREAS, there have been numerous damaging legal rulings that have created barriers to age discrimination lawsuits; and
WHEREAS, the courts decided that if pension or salary costs are too high, it is not discrimination to fire an older worker; and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court recently ruled that older workers must show that age was a decisive, not just a "contributing problem," to their firing; and
WHEREAS, there are many accepted ageist stereotypes of older workers being ineffective, slow and accident prone; and
WHEREAS, research shows that older workers are safe and reliable workers; and
WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court recently raised the bar for older employees to prove age discrimination in employment; and
WHEREAS, in Gross v. F.B.I. Financial Services, a 54-year-old man was demoted at work and sued his employer under the federal employment discrimination law for older workers, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and
WHEREAS, due to the recent economic downturn, many Americans age 55 and over are working, and age discrimination cases increased 29 percent last year over 2007; and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court in the 2009 Gross ruling said that older employees must prove the "full burden of demonstrating that age was the deciding factor" in age discrimination cases (New York Times, Oct. 7, 2009) as opposed to the proof for other forms of job bias; and
WHEREAS, Sen. Tom Harkin said this "extremely high burden really undermines workers' ability to hold employers accountable," and has joined with Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. George Miller to propose new legislation to overcome this decision:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers, its members and affiliates support congressional action to strengthen the Age and Discrimination in Employment Act to make age discrimination an equal civil rights priority and to create stronger provisions that protect the rights of older workers and respond to standards that have created unacceptable burdens of proof for older workers facing discrimination.
RESOLVED, that the AFT and the AFL-CIO urge our senators and representatives to support the proposed legislation known as the Older Workers Against Discrimination Act and similar bills to rectify the injustice in the above court decision.