Age Discrimination Bill Aims to Help Senior Workers in Indiana


Columbus, IN—With the floundering economy and the soaring unemployment rate, workers are doing everything in their power these days to protect their own jobs. Older workers in the state of Indiana may receive a helping hand, if a new bill passes.

H.B. 1014, sponsored by Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, would transfer jurisdiction of age-bias claims to the Civil Rights Commission, which already handles workplace discrimination cases involving race, sex, and religion.

Age-bias claims are currently handled by the state Department of Labor, which can issue a ruling on age-bias cases, but cannot penalize employers. Currently, the Department of Labor receives approximately five complaints per year of age discrimination.

If the pending legislation passes, and age discrimination cases are handed over to the Civil Rights Commission, that agency would be empowered to help victims by not only restoring them to their jobs, but also recovering their lost wages.

The bill would allow employees of small companies – six employees or fewer – to file a claim against their employer. Right now only companies which employ 20 or more people are vulnerable under the law. The bill would also allow anyone, regardless of age, to file an age-discrimination claim.

Advocates of small business are protesting the bill, claiming that the time and expense needed to fight such a claim in court, even if it ended up being false, would be detrimental to their business.

In 2006, a study conducted by the Indiana chapter of the American Associated of Retired Persons (AARP) found that nearly 30% of Indiana residents over the age of 50 had been, or had known someone who had been, the victim of age discrimination.

As older people are staying in the workforce in greater numbers, and companies seek to save money by hiring younger, less experienced workers for less money, the problem is expected to increase.

Committee chair Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, proposed three amendments to the bill. One would allow the Department of Labor to maintain its jurisdiction over age-bias cases, but would enable it to hand down a fine of $100 in the event that the bias is corroborated; one would require the Department to make public its findings regarding employers’ age-bias practices; and the last amendment would raise the age cap, which now stands at 69, to 75.

A vote is expected on the bill and its amendments next week.


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