By Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Creating an age-discrimination task force will be a priority during the Oregon Legislature's short session next month.
The discussion on how to address the issue started in the 2019 session, after a 2018 AARP survey found three in five older workers in the state have seen or experienced age discrimination. According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor Industries, more than 2,500 age discrimination claims have been filed with the agency in the past decade.
AARP Oregon State Director Ruby Haughton-Pitts said older workers are a valuable part of the labor force, especially with the state's historically low unemployment numbers.
"How can we have a broad enough discussion that actually creates a viable workforce for the future in our state," she said, "and doesn't X people out just because you see when they graduated from college or high school or whatever, but says, 'This person has good skills; I need to take a look at them.' "
Haughton-Pitts said age discrimination cases are much harder to prove than other types of bias. People 65 and older make up the fastest-growing age group in the workforce.
She cited a few of the conversations she's had with folks who have felt discrimination firsthand, from a person who was told they couldn't do a job because it requires new technology to a 65-year-old woman who was asked why she didn't retire.
"She saw no reason why she should retire. She was happy in her job; she was doing well," Haughton-Pitts said. "And so, I think we're not realizing that people are living to be into their 80s, 90s and 100s -- and in order to live a fulfilling life, people need to work."
A bipartisan effort to address this issue also is taking place at the federal level. The U.S. House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. HR 1230 would restore the age discrimination law to the way it was before a 2009 Supreme Court decision weakened it.
The 2020 legislative session begins on Monday, Feb. 3.
The AARP Oregon survey is online at aarp.org.