California residents who are old enough to suffer from age discrimination in the workplace should be aware of POWADA, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. This is a proposed law designed to make proving age discrimination in court much easier. One study by the Urban Institute found that 56% of older workers are forced out of their jobs before they can retire. Only one in 10 of those workers will make as much money at their new place of employment.
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with employers in 2009 by making it much more difficult for victims of discrimination to prove they were wrongfully demoted or terminated. Aged workers are still able to sue their employers for workplace discrimination; however, the Supreme Court’s decision requires that plaintiffs prove that age was the sole factor in their termination or demotion. An employer could simply argue that the plaintiff would have been fired even if they were younger. The burden of proof currently lies solely on the plaintiff and creates a serious hardship since proving age as a sole factor is no easy feat.
POWADA seeks to restore the pre-2009 alignment between the ADEA and Title VII. If POWADA is passed, it will make it far easier for older employees to protect themselves from age discrimination. Employers will be much less likely to demote or fire older employees if they know the chances of losing in court are high.
An employee who feels that age was a major factor in why they were demoted or terminated may consider working with an attorney who has experience in workplace discrimination. Even without POWADA in effect, an attorney might be able to help an affected employee prove that they were discriminated against.