Sen. Derek Slap, center, is the bill's lead sponsor. mark Pazniokas / ctmirror.org
Sen. Derek Slap, center, is the bill’s lead sponsor. mark Pazniokas / ctmirror.org
Sen. Derek Slap, center, is the bill’s lead sponsor. mark Pazniokas / ctmirror.org

With one in four workers now aged 55 and older, Connecticut lawmakers of both parties are rallying around a relatively modest bill aimed at age-discrimination: a prohibition on employers requiring prospective employees to list their age, birth date, or graduation year on an application.

The broad and bipartisan support for the measure reflects the political clout of a Baby Boomer generation whose median age is now 62, the lack of opposition from industry and the fact that it reinforces longstanding age-discrimination prohibitions.

“Essentially it closes a very costly loophole that exists right now for older workers, because if you think about it, employers in a job interview cannot ask the job applicant their age. They cannot ask, ‘How old are you?’” said Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford.

Slap, the lead sponsor and newly appointed co-chair of the legislature’s Aging Committee, was joined at a press conference Thursday by supporters, including the ranking Republicans on the committee and representatives of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the AARP.

The legislation is the latest effort by lawmakers to prohibit employers from using screening questions on applications. In 2016, they passed a “ban-the-box” bill barring questions about criminal history. In 2018, they barred application questions about pay history. The age-discrimination bill cleared the Labor and Public Employees Committee but did not come to a vote in either chamber.

The goal of the salary history bill was pay equity. The theory is that women historically earn less than men, so relying on pay history to set future compensation only would continue inequities. But the AARP said it also had a benefit for older workers.

Older workers seeking employment after being downsized from high-paying managerial jobs complain that many companies won’t consider them for lower-paying, non-managerial roles once they know their pay history.

The national growth in the number of older workers in the workforce represents a striking demographic shift: The percentage of 55-and-older employees — essentially the postwar Baby Boom generation — has doubled since 2000.

The youngest of the 78 million Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are 56. About 10,000 Boomers are reaching retirement age every day, but only 5,900 will retire then, according to the AARP.

Slap said the impact is especially stark in Connecticut, the state with the sixth-oldest workforce.

A similar age-discrimination bill cleared the Labor and Public Employees Committee on a 12-2 vote last year, but did not come to a floor vote in either chamber. The new version makes clear that applications can require a disclosure of age when relevant, such as for commercial truck driving jobs.

Rep. David Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, who voted against measure last year in committee, said Slap reached out to a range of lawmakers and interest groups to produce a bill with broad support.

“It is a fundamental principle of mine and others, and I’m sure everybody here, that our job is to remove barriers to opportunity in employment,” Rutigliano said. “And if an age on an application stops somebody from the ability to get an interview and let their light shine in front of an employer, then I would be for getting rid of it.”

Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, a member of the Aging Committee, said he had difficulty getting interviews once he lost a marketing executive post at age 54. He said his experience motivated him to run for the General Assembly.

By 2022, 35% of the American workforce are going to be over age 50, said Nora Duncan, the state director of AARP in Connecticut. A 2018 AARP survey of 3,900 workers age 45 and older found 61% had either experienced or seen age discrimination in the workplace.

“The two fastest-growing populations in the workforce are those age 75-plus, by leaps and bounds, and ages 65 to 74,” Duncan said. “So, this is real. These are folks who are in our workforce. They are also the folks who are telling us their experience in age discrimination.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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5 Comments

  1. Confused senior here. The CT law against age discrimination passed in 2019. That law made it illegal for employers to ask , or place in an application, birth or school dates. The applicant can legally leave these blank per the CT 2019 law. So what does this law do? Also, an old trick is not addressed in this new law: Employers can demand to see a copy of your diploma(of any kind), before making any final hiring decision/offer. The diploma has the graduation date on it!

    1. Hi Donna, per the story, the age-discrimination bill passed in the Labor and Public Employees Committee but did not come to a vote in either chamber.

  2. Connecticut’s companies routinely push older workers out by eliminating their retiree benefits if they don’t leave! This was done when local companies such as the insurance industry in Hartford sent much of their work offshore to India or hired foreign visa Indian guest workers (H-1bs) to replace fired diverse American citizens.

    How is it legal that thousands of American Connecticut citizens of diverse race, creeds and ages are fired and replaced by 100% Indian nationals guest workers, and the media doesn’t report on it?

  3. Nice try, but won’t resolve the issue. Age discrimination is alive and well in the realm of employment. As soon as someone realizes you have 25-30 years of experience, they know you’re over the age of 50 and they don’t hire you. It’s subtle but it is reality. Most companies are being inundated with online applications and applicants with that many years of experience rarely get a call back. Bottom line is you have to present something to get a job and they’ll figure out your age during the interview process. No matter how good your background and experience, you’ll hear the standard line – “we decided to go with a person who had a different skill set.” Rare is it that someone has the time or resources to file suit to show age discrimination.

  4. Fred is correct – age discrimination is alive and well.
    I was cut loose in 2009 from an engineering management position. I was 59 years old. No one was interested in considering me for any position, and most of the rejections were thinly phrased excuses. Apparently no one figured I’d be around long enough and/or the disparity in compensation would have me chasing a different position elsewhere.
    Thankfully I went out on my own as a consultant and have done quite well. The advantage is that I no longer have a corporate boss to contend with and I can pick and chose my projects.

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