News / Utah / 

KSL TV

Gephardt: Advocates push for better laws to protect older workers against discrimination

By Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV | Posted - Feb. 11, 2021 at 11:35 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY – It has been against the law since the 1960s for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on age. But it happens frequently, thanks, largely, to a loophole in the law.

Now, advocates are hopeful they can close that loophole.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 clearly says a boss can't decide not to hire you or not promote you, based on being older. But about 10 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court picked the law apart making age discrimination a lesser form of discrimination.

Susan Weinstock, AARP vice president of financial resilience, said it's left older workers at a disadvantage.

"You have to prove more that it was the reason why there was discrimination in order to make you win your case. So that makes it very, very hard."

She and her team are currently fighting to get a federal law passed which would make age discrimination on par with things like not hiring someone due to their religion or the color of their skin.

We will continue to be pushing that in the Congress and hopefully we can get it passed so that there'll be a level playing field with other forms of discrimination," she told KSL-TV.

But it's a bill that's been slugging through Congress for two years now. What hope does it have in the new Washington? Actually, lots, thinks Rhett Buttle.

Last year, Buttle advised the Joe Biden campaign on small-business matters. While he's quick to say he does not speak for the current president, there was a lot of conversation about the importance of older workers during the campaign, he said.

"What I can say is that you know, Joe Biden, you know, from my work on the campaign, and I think what we've seen in (Biden's early days in office), has put workers front and center. And I think that's workers of all ages," Buttle said.

Related:

Buttle is now working with people of all ages who are trying to start up a new business get off the ground. He is the founder of Public Private Strategies, which just launched a website aimed at helping people start new businesses.

According to the AARP, most people think age-discrimination is a grandparent problem or something reserved for the elderly. But actually, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act covers people who are age 40 and older.

As the KSL Investigators reported last month, older people are expected to have a harder time finding work than younger people as we emerge from the pandemic.

After the great recession, people 50 and older who lost their jobs sat on the unemployment line twice as long according to the AARP.

"Once they did find that job, they often didn't make the salary that they were making before," Weinstock said. "They ended up taking a pay cut, too, so it was a double whammy."


Once they did find that job, they often didn't make the salary that they were making before. They ended up taking a pay cut, too, so it was a double whammy.

–Susan Weinstock, AARP V.P. of financial resilience


Right now, 45.6% of all job seekers 55 and over have been looking for a job for six months or longer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Advocates like Weinstock said bosses are really missing out on some valuable "soft" qualities if they fish only from the young-worker pond.

"Things like calm under pressure, or problem solvers. They're empathetic. They listen better. They're collegial. They're collaborative. These are all skills that you gain as you've been in the workforce for a long time," Weinstock said.

Here in Utah, state records don't specifically break down whether older workers take longer to regain employment.

Utah Workforce Services Chief Economist Mark Knold said, "My instincts say that is so, but no data to confirm."

What data Utah does have said that it was young people who lost their jobs, in large measure, during the Great Recession.

As the KSL Investigators reported last month, older people are expected to have a harder time finding work than younger people as we emerge from the pandemic.

Related Stories

Matt Gephardt
    Sloan Schrage

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast