Older workers back age-discrimination bill-WEB ONLY

One older worker told lawmakers he struggled to find a
job because he has more experience than employers want. Another said he was
encouraged after a phone interview, but he didn’t get the job after the employer
changed his mind once they met in person. Other seniors said they were the first
to be let go during layoffs.

Supporters of a legislative proposal say age discrimination isn’t easy to
prove, but it exists.

“When you live it, you know it,” said 66-year-old Norman York of Fishers.

York and other older workers urged the Indiana Senate’s Labor Committee to
change state law so older workers can file age discrimination claims and have a
chance to win back wages or other concessions. Business groups oppose the
measure, saying it would burden certain employers during tough economic
times.

The Senate committee heard testimony about the proposal yesterday and could
change or vote on the proposal next week.

Under current law, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission handles complaints of
discrimination because of race, sex, religion and other factors. The commission
can order restoration of wages and take other actions, like revoking employer
licenses.

But claims filed under the state’s age discrimination law – which covers
workers ages 40 to 69 – are treated differently. Those claims are handled by the
state Department of Labor, which doesn’t have the authority to issue any
penalties.

Workers at companies with 20 or more employees are covered under federal age
discrimination laws and can file complaints through the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. But supporters of the state legislation say those
working for smaller employers should be able to seek penalties for age
discrimination.

Under the bill, those who work for small companies could file complaints with
the state civil rights commission, and those at bigger companies could press
their case either at the state or federal level.

George Raymond of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said he hated lobbying
against the age-discrimination bill since he “passed 65 some time ago.” But he
said most age-discrimination claims are found to be without merit, and that the
bill would require small business owners to spend valuable time and money
defending unwarranted claims.

“This puts a tremendous burden on a small employer,” Raymond said.

Workers said the proposal was important because it is frustrating and
demoralizing to be pushed aside not because of ability but because of age.

“Seniority means nothing in today’s business world,” York said.

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