State Sen. Derek Slap of West Hartford is supporting reintroduction of a bill that would protect older job applicants from age discrimination by having to provide their age or other information that would indicate their age.
State Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) and a bipartisan group of legislators and advocates announced their support at a news conference Thursday for a bill that prohibits employers from asking the age, date of birth, or graduation dates of job applicants, unless a particular age is a bona fide occupational qualification.
With 436,000 workers in their mid-50s, Connecticut has the sixth-oldest workforce in the nation, with a median age of 41 (as of 2017). Just 20% of Connecticut employees were over the age 54 in 2008; today that figure is 26.5%, with the health care, manufacturing, educational services and retail trade industries employing the most workers over age 54.
A 2018 AARP survey found about 60% of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, and 76% of them see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job. Meanwhile, nearly a third of U.S. households headed by someone age 55 or older have no retirement savings or pension, meaning they’ll have to continue working or rely on Social Security in order to survive financially.
“This bill will help close a very costly loophole for older workers in Connecticut who disproportionately face under-employment and unemployment,” said Slap. “No one should be vetted for a job based solely on their age. This bill will make our economy fairer and stronger.”
The bill, which will be formally introduced once session begins in February, will closely the follow the language of a similar bill introduced last year, House Bill 6113. That bill, also introduced by Slap and co-sponsored by 36 other legislators, noted that, “except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need,” employers are not allowed to “request or require a prospective employee’s age, date of birth or date of graduation from an educational institution on an initial employment application.”
Last year’s bill passed the Labor Committee in March but was never raised in the House for a vote.
“While no legislation can by itself change the way people think, laws can influence what they do. Enacting this bill will remove an obstacle from an early stage of the hiring process,” said Bernie Weiss, vice president of the Seniors Job Bank, a nonprofit community organization serving the Greater Hartford region, which has for 40 years connected men and women over 50 seeking work to businesses and households with work to be done.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, older workers will make up the fastest-growing segment of the workforce from 2014 to 2024,” said Nora L. Duncan, state director for the AARP of Connecticut. “While age discrimination is illegal, we live in a society where age seems to be the last acceptable bias. Whether it’s intentional or not, knowing someone’s age can create bias that keeps a qualified job applicant from getting a fair chance at being considered for a position. This legislation reduces that risk and levels the playing field.”
“Mature workers are the backbone of the modern-day workforce, providing skills, leadership and deep professional networks,” said Tom Long, senior vice president of communications and development for The WorkPlace in Bridgeport, which seeks to develop a well-educated, well-trained, and self-sufficient workforce to compete in today’s global marketplace. “Age does not define ability, and it is essential for employers to provide an opportunity for job candidates to demonstrate that their experience is an asset.”
Slap encourages anyone who may have been impacted by age discrimination during the hiring process, and who is willing to testify about that at a public hearing on the bill, to contact his legislative office at 860-240-1436.
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