proposed legislation authorizing federal funds for training personnel to deal with the elderly, developing services, and building recreational centers. His proposals became the Older Americans Act of 1965.
Neither Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor Executive Order 11246, which regulates federal contractors, prohibited discrimination based on age. In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA-67) was passed and it became law on June 12, 1968. It prohibits discrimination against persons over forty who are job applicants or employees in private sector firms with 20 or more workers or in labor organizations with 25 or more members, unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) intervenes. The 1967 act protected employees between 40 and 65 years old; a 1978 amendment extended the limit to age 70. Federal, state, and local government employers became subject to ADEA-67 by a 1974 amendment.
ADEA-67 and its amendments are enforced by the United States Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. When complaints arise, compliance officers first try to get a voluntary agreement between the employee and the employer. If negotiation is unsuccessful, the Department of Labor may go to court to seek a judgment requiring an employer to reinstate or promote an employee and to pay lost compensation if the employer is liable. Unlike many other civil rights cases that are decided by judges, age discrimination cases are typically decided by jury trials.
A large proportion of age discrimination cases focus on involuntary dismissals. According to ADEA-67, an employer is empowered to set a maximum age when the normal operation of a business creates a reasonable necessity for the age limit. The upper limit on age is an important restriction often linked to an alleged involuntary dismissal because of mandatory retirement.
Since 1978, mandatory retirement for federal employees has been disallowed, except in certain instances such as employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A 1986 amendment eliminated mandatory retirement for all covered employees with the exception of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and employees of colleges and universities. They were denied protection by a seven-year exemption. The exemption expired December 31, 1993, and has not yet been extended by Congress. State and local bodies now do not have grounds to force the early retirement of public safety officers, typically at age 55.
Pension systems in America are subject to the provisions of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1978 (ERISA). Retirement systems may define a minimum age requirement that has to be met before benefits are payable. A minimum age requirement may be imposed regardless of a person's years of service to an organization. Such employment anniversaries are not mandatory retirement ages, but merely criteria for pension payouts. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 requires that pension plan payout begin at age 70.5 regardless of whether the individual has retired from the workforce.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is one part of a constellation of developing policies for older persons in America that deal with such problems as adequate pensions or needed social services. A reauthorization of the 1965 Older Americans Act in 1992 provided for elder abuse prevention, expanded outreach services and benefits including pension counseling, and authorized a new White House Conference on Aging. A hotly contested component of the general debate that did not become a part of the 1992 legislation was an increase in the Social Security earnings test, that is, the amount of money an older worker might earn from current employment before losing Social Security benefits.
The population of the United States 65 years of age and older is expected to reach 20 percent by the year 2030. This population will be expected to take care of itself with the help of in-home medical care and social services. Increasingly, balancing work and family concerns will involve a growing group of workers in caring for elderly parents, relatives, or friends who cannot manage alone. Elder care responsibilities will fall disproportionately on employees in middle age and on women employees. The future context of aging will impact the potential course of equitable treatment of employees who are aging or who have responsibility for care of an elderly family member.
COLE BLEASE GRAHAM, JR.
Eglit, H. C., 1994. Age Discrimination. 2d ed. Colorado Springs, CO: Shepard's/McGraw-Hill.
Handa, J., 1994. Discrimination, Retirement and Pensions. Brookfield, VT: Avebury.
DISCRIMINATION, DISABILITIES. With regard to people who have mental and/or physical disabilities, denying civil rights in the workplace as well as in the delivery of, or provision of access to, services provided by public and private organizations. In the United States, nearly 20 percent of the population-over 45 million people-suffer from one form of disability or another. It is important to note that nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens of working age who have disabilities have trouble securing employment as a result of their disabilities.