Most Republicans voted against the measure, with one conservative lawmaker suggesting that older Americans don’t need Congress to protect their rights.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed new legislation to prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants due to their age.
The Hill reports that the bill was passed 224-200, with seven Republicans joining all of the chamber’s Democrats in support.
According to The Hill, the legislation would expand a 1967 law prohibiting age discrimination in the workplace. Critically, if put into law, job applicants who believe they were denied an offer because of their age will be able to file a claim of disparate impact discrimination against employers.
Proponents of the measure, which must still go through the Senate, say existing statutes need clarification.
During the coronavirus pandemic, older Americans reported difficulty finding new jobs after being laid off. Some said they had tried to fill out applications, but were unable to submit them because their year of birth was not listed on drop-down menus.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Texas Democrat, said the bill’s passage will help hard-working Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are afraid they may not be able to find new employment.
“This bill will help people trying to recover from this pandemic, including people who lost their job in the middle of their career who now fear they will never work again because of discriminatory hiring practices,” Sylvia said in a statement.
“It is just a simple clarification bill,” she added. “It clarifies that job protections for older Americans begin at the time of the application.”
But with few exceptions, House Republicans resisted the measure, saying that Americans over the age of 50 do not need Congress’s help resisting discrimination.
Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), for instance, suggested that the bill was meant to help trial lawyers rather than older Americans.
“Older workers are faring well in the workforce without the help from us in Congress, and they don’t need a trial lawyer payoff — disguised as a win for older workers — that will threaten routine hiring practices, limit job opportunities, and create a tsunami of parasitic litigation,” said Rep. Good, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.
The Hill reports that, before the bill’s passage, the House voted 225-201 to adopt an amendment sponsored by Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Marie Newman (D-IL), that would require the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to commission and conduct a study on the number of older Americans affected by age discrimination in hiring and in the workplace.
The E.E.O.C. would also be required to identify potential solutions to rectify such discrimination.