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Republicans Urge Careful Consideration of Proposal to Rewrite Civil Rights Laws
Legislation “may enhance protections for lawyers, but do nothing for individuals.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions heard testimony today raising serious questions about a proposed overhaul of anti-discrimination laws, including potential unintended consequences of the proposed legislation on a broad range of existing federal and state laws. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 3721) seeks to address the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gross vs. FBL Financial Services (Gross) regarding claims of employment-based age discrimination:
“Now, one can argue whether the Gross case was properly decided by the Supreme Court – it was a narrowly-divided decision, and included a strong dissent,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the senior Republican on the Subcommittee for Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. “Good minds can and will disagree over whether the majority’s holding was the correct one. What is beyond dispute, however, is that despite its title, Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination, this legislative remedy goes far beyond simply amending the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and reversing the Gross decision.”
“We all agree that discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on someone’s age, should not be allowed in the workplace,” commented Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the committee’s top Republican. “The question before the Committee is not whether age discrimination is acceptable, but rather how can we, as federal policymakers, prevent age discrimination in a responsible way. There are serious concerns that the Democrats’ legislation will have negative consequences beyond its intent and those concerns must be addressed.”
The Subcommittee heard testimony from several witnesses, including Mr. Jack Gross, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court Gross decision. The Subcommittee also heard the testimony of Eric Dreiband, former General Counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“Mr. Gross and many others will likewise gain nothing if the bill passes in its current form,” testified Mr. Dreiband. “The bill may provide greater income for some lawyers, but it will do so at a terrible cost. Discrimination victims, unions, employers, and others will become embroiled in years of unnecessary litigation about the bill’s meaning. None of this is necessary, and I request that the Congress resist the urge to enact the bill as proposed.”
“I am deeply concerned that the vague and expansive reach of this law will undo years of settled case law and practice under statutes wholly unrelated to the Gross case, or to the protection of ‘older’ workers,” Price concluded in his opening remarks. “Indeed, in too many ways, this legislation makes broad substantive changes to our nation’s civil rights laws under the facade of narrowly reversing a single Supreme Court case.”
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