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Happy 50th Birthday, Age Discrimination in Employment Act!


From our partner Toni Ahl at EEO Advantage

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted on December 15, 1967. The enforcement of the ADEA was given to the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL began enforcing the ADEA on June 15, 1968. The ADEA protected individuals from the age of 40 to the age of 65.

An amendments act was passed in 1978 that changed the upper age limit from 65 to 70 for employees working in the private sector. The act removed the cap for age for Federal employees. This act also made jury trials under the ADEA an explicit right. Additionally, the act prohibited a seniority system or benefit plan from requiring or permitting involuntary retirement. Later that year, an Executive Order transferred enforcement authority to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) effective October 1, 1979.

In 1986, another amendments act was passed to the ADEA. This act eliminated the upper age coverage cap of 70 for private sector employees.

As you can see, the ADEA has certainly evolved through the years. It’s hard to believe that, at one time, employees could be terminated when they reached the age of 65. Even the age for receiving full retirement benefits from Social Security has risen above that age. The majority of people work past the age of 65 these days.

Through the years, I’ve been asked many times why 40 is the threshold for being covered under the ADEA. Thinking back to 1968, life expectancy was not what it is today. I remember 1968 and someone 40 did seem older than they seem today. Although the upper caps have been removed from the act, the lower age limit has remained the same. There are some jurisdictions which have statutes to protect younger workers, however, that is not the case with the ADEA.

In FY 2016, there were 20857 charges filed with EEOC alleging age discrimination. That same year, EEOC resolved 22594 charges of age discrimination and recovered $88.20 million for the victims. In 1996, just ten years prior, EEOC received 15719 charges and resolved 17699. The amount of money recovered for those victims was $31.5 million. As you can see, age discrimination can be costly.

So, Happy 50th Birthday, ADEA! And, may you have many more!!

If you would like more information on the ADEA or training on it, feel free to contact me at eeoadvantage@gmail.com or (502) 55307648.

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