U.S. Age Discrimination Law Misses Mark Set 50 Years Ago

JohnsonSignsADEAWhen Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act 50 years ago, he said the law requires employers to do only one thing – hire the person most qualified for the job. 

Based on that criteria, the ADEA is an utter failure.

 In many sectors, what society has traditionally considered to be “qualifications” are ignored with impunity.  Some employers ignore experience altogether and bar older workers from applying for jobs.

For example, former Democratic President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that permits federal agencies to hire only “recent” graduates, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 40. It is estimated that older workers have been barred from applying for more than 60,000 federal jobs since 2012.

Silicon Valley is a well-known virtual apartheid state for younger workers.

Research shows that when older women lose their jobs, they are subject to gross hiring discrimination. This dooms may older women to poverty in their old age.

 President Johnson said the ADEA does not compel employers to hire older workers.

“[The ADEA] does require that one simple question be answered fairly:  Who has the best qualifications for the job?”

 In his 1967 statement, President Johnson referred to a study conducted by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that found pervasive age discrimination in employment in the United States.President Johnson cites the following findings of the study:

  • Half of all jobs were closed to workers over 55, and one-fourth of all jobs are closed to workers over 45.
  • Workers 45 years old and older made up half of this country’s long term unemployed, and over one-fourth of all the unemployed.
  • Of the billion dollars in unemployment insurance paid out each year, three-fourths went to workers 45 or over.
  • Although Americans are now living longer and enjoying better health than ever before, older workers were often barred from jobs that could be performed efficiently by workers of any age.

The DOL should consider conducting a new study using the same parameters as the 1967 study to see how far older workers have progressed in the past 50 years. 

Pres. Johnson said age discrimination adds up to “a senseless and costly waste of human talents and energy… [M]en and women who needed to work—who wanted to work—and who were able to work, were not being given a fair chance to work.”  He called the ADEA “humane and practical legislation. The Congress acted wisely in passing it and I am proud to sign it.”

Source: Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), pp.1154-1155.

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Author: pgb

Attorney at Law, author and blogger.

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