WASHINGTON, May 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Robert Weiner, a former spokesman in the Clinton White House and Chief of Staff of the U.S. House Aging Committee when legislation was enacted banning age discrimination, and policy analyst Daniel Khan, have written a Des Moines Register article, just out, asserting that age discrimination persists despite federal law barring it. In addition, following a 2009 Supreme Court case, Jack Gross vs. FBL Financial Services, age discrimination cases have escalated because the court insisted that age discrimination must be the sole factor for a plaintiff to win a suit. Weiner and Khan call for congressional and federal agency corrective action and enforcement. Iowa has been at the center of the debate and has achieved a number of victories in state court, and Weiner and Khan list other effective states.
In the article, "Age Discrimination Persists Despite Law," Weiner and Khan contend, "While the nation is fond of debating improvements and changes to Social Security, both likely presidential nominees, Clinton and Trump, promise to maintain and protect it. However, equally important to seniors are the economics and self-worth of their work. Being fired or demoted for age is unacceptable."
They cite the statement, "Ageism is as odious as racism or sexism," by Florida Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL) in 1976 before his legislation (supported by then Iowa congressman and Aging Committee member Chuck Grassley) passed to eliminate age-based mandatory retirement and end discrimination in hiring and advancement (the Age Discrimination and Employment Act Amendments).
They argue, "Age related complaints have grown, not shrunk, in recent years. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that between 1997 and 2007, there were around 16,000 to 19,000 filings for age complaints. However, from 2008 through the present, complaints increased to 23,000 to 25,000 a year. An AARP survey found that two-thirds of workers between 45 and 74 have "seen or experienced age discrimination on the job."
They explain that, "a Supreme Court decision in 2009, Gross v. FBL. Financial Services, Inc., put the ADEA at greater risk, and the risk continues today." In 2003, Jack Gross noticed a memo at his West Des Moines, Iowa insurance job that explained staffing changes. Gross said, "I got this ahead of time, and it just jumped off the page. Everybody that they're naming here is my age or older. Nobody under 50 was getting demoted. The only promotions were people who were basically a generation younger than us."
Weiner and Khan continue, "Gross was 54 at the time and Vice President at FBL Financial. He sued the company and achieved victory in the lower courts. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 18, 2009 by 5-4 that the plaintiff most prove that age was the sole reason for discrimination."
The authors explain, "As a result, hundreds of cases relating to age discrimination have been abandoned." "Personally, that's one of the things that I resent most," Gross said. "That my name is being associated with so much injustice and unfairness."
Weiner and Khan say, "Beforehand, if an employee was fired or not promoted, the worker could raise age discrimination as an issue. Now, he or she must prove with absolute certainty that age was the primary reason for termination or failure to rise."
They go on, "Suing your employer for age discrimination is basically playing Russian roulette with your career future," says Paul Bernard, an executive coach for Next Avenue, a public and national media service for America's 50 and over population. "You burn your bridges and may never get hired again."
Weiner and Khan note, "Pearl Zuchlewski, a New York-based employment lawyer, adds how time consuming the process is: 'Most people want to get another job and not spend years in deposition.'"
Weiner and Khan point out, "Arguably, the biggest obstacle is cost. Deposition costs are as much as $1,800 a day. For Gross, the fee was $11,000 simply to print the documents relating to his case. You might be in a better off to negotiate a deal with your employer."
They note, "Dan Kohrman, a senior attorney at the AARP Foundation, asserts, 'These kind of decisions scare off workers and lawyers. It's harder to prove an age case.'"
The authors highlight, "a bright spot: more victories are being won in state courts, if not federal courts. California, Michigan, New York, and Iowa are some states that have better protections for older workers. Deborah Campbell, 63, a community program monitor for Iowa's 3rd Judicial District Correctional Department, was awarded $404,682 in 2014 by a Woodbury County District Court Judge for age discrimination. In 2012, Dr. Zane Hurkin, 81, was awarded $340,000 by a Polk County jury for age discrimination at Woodward County Resource Center in Des Moines. But Korhman elaborates, 'If you don't live in that kind of state, than it is tough. It is really tough.'"
Weiner and Khan go on, "Sen. Chuck Grassley (D-Iowa) and former Sen. Tom Harkin (R-Iowa) introduced bipartisan legislation to undo the Supreme Court Decision of FBL vs. Financial Services in 2012, and last year Sens. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced similar legislation 'To Clean Up After Supreme Court Decision That Exposed Older Workers To Discrimination,' according to Think Progress, a federal-action monitoring blog. Grassley commented, "The decision in the Gross case has had a major impact on employment discrimination litigation across the country. It's time we clarify the law to ensure that other people like Jack Gross aren't put in similar situations. Older Americans deserve the protections Congress originally intended."
Weiner and Khan conclude, "People 50 and older will be 35 percent of the workforce by 2019, according to the Urban Institute. With more cases coming in, there is pressure for Congress to act against discrimination and for DOJ to put in place protections for seniors' job security. Seniors vote in the highest percentages of any age, so this not only makes good sense, but good politics."
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and was Chief of Staff of the U.S. House Aging Committee. Daniel Khan is senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.
Contacts: Bob Weiner/Ben Lasky 301-283-0821, cell 202-306-1200 firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change