Bill Would Protect Older Job Seekers From Discrimination

Older worker looking for a new job
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A bill that would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants based on age is moving through Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protect Older Job Applicants (POJA) Act of 2021 on Nov. 4 by a vote of 224-200, with seven Republicans supporting the legislation. It heads to the Senate next.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, the POJA Act would amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 to better protect job applicants specifically from age discrimination.

Section 623(a)(2) of the 1967 law states that it is unlawful for an employer “to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age.”

The POJA Act would amend that section by inserting the phrase “or as an applicant for employment” after the word “employee.”

In a statement issued after the House vote, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) explained:

“While many employers and legal scholars have interpreted the ADEA as applying to job applicants and employees, two federal circuit courts ruled that some provisions of the ADEA’s federal anti-age discrimination protections only applied to current employees, not job applicants. These narrow interpretations contradict the intentions of the ADEA’s creators and the POJA Act specifically includes job applicants as protected under the ADEA.”

Additionally, the POJA Act would require the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, to investigate the number of job applicants who are affected by age discrimination and to make recommendations for countering age discrimination in the job application process.

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