On Thursday, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) held a hearing entitled, “Beyond the 9 to 5: Dismantling Barriers and Building Economic Resilience for Older Workers,” which examined the barriers older workers face in the workplace. Older Americans are working longer than ever before, many remaining in the workforce to make ends meet or regain income lost while caregiving.
During the hearing, Chairman Casey highlighted his recently-introduced, bipartisan Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA), which would make it easier for employees to prove when they are a victim of age discrimination in the workplace. Older workers are currently required to meet a significantly higher burden of proof when alleging age discrimination than is required of workers alleging other forms of workplace discrimination.
“Far too many older Americans face barriers to advance their careers or save for retirement because of age discrimination,” said Chairman Casey. “We can level the playing field for older workers and restore safeguards against age-based discrimination by passing my Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, as well as by strengthening unions and bolstering workplace protections. As we build a better economy, we must ensure older Americans are given the support and protection they need to reach economic security.”
Older workers are more likely to have a work-limiting health condition or a disability. While many aging workers occupy and can perform jobs without accommodation, others face challenges in applying for, accepting, or maintaining jobs due to a health condition or disability that may not always be obvious to managers and coworkers. These include physical barriers, such as inaccessible work locations and equipment, as well as workplace procedures or practices, such as rules pertaining to when work can be performed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 61 percent of workers have access to a defined contribution plan through their employers. Coverage is even lower among workers in low-wage and part-time jobs, and among those who work for small employers. Career disruptions due to a disability, health shocks, caregiving responsibilities, or unemployment are also common barriers to retirement plan access, participation, and contribution.
Chairman Casey invited Dave McLimans, a retired steelworker from Parkesburg, PA, to testify about his experience supporting older workers’ transitions into retirement. He testified, “I didn’t serve my country, work, and pay taxes for 44 years just to let my voice fade away or see younger generations lose benefits I fought for my whole life…I urge you to not cut or change benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We are the richest democracy on earth, we can afford to allow workers to retire with dignity.”
Read more about the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act here.
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