The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 forbids employment discrimination against those 40 years of age or older. Within the act there are also prohibitions against denying older workers benefits and mandatory retirement (unless the person is an executive over the age of 65 entitled to larger than average annual pensions).
Congress wrote the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to combat the rising trend in firing and failure to hire older workers in favor of younger workers. It was a common conception that workers 40 years and over did not have the same abilities or willingness to acquire new skills as a fresh crop of employees, largely amplified by the invidious tendency toward firing older workers with higher pay and replacing them with younger workers eager to accept a position for less money.
This social paradigm is reverberated within the text of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: “the setting of arbitrary age limits regardless of potential for job performance has become a common practice.” It indicates that the burden of this shortsightedness exacerbates the economy.
Age discrimination may take shape in subtle ways that are difficult to prove. An employer might decline hiring an older worker simply because they feel they do not have long term career outlook with the company, or perhaps assume that a worker over 40 would have health ailments that could decrease their productivity. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 may not outright debunk these myths, but it offers a protection for older workers from prejudice in the workplace – one that pays.
Lawsuits involving age discrimination are among the highest payouts in employment discrimination cases. Unlawful termination like this can lead to an employer having to pay lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, and attorneys fees. Considering these are often cases involving workers who have higher positions as they have moved up the corporate ladder, these punitive damages can be quite high.
A recent case is that of Best Buy versus 44 former IT workers who claim they were discharged and replaced by younger workers. Best Buy settled the case in June of 2007. And in July of 2007, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found Nassau in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and estimates $450,000 in punitive damages to be paid to four wrongfully terminated employees.
What the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 may have helped highlight is the fact that older workers are often those with a wide breadth of knowledge, range of skills, and years of experience under their belts. This offers invaluable contributions and potential to an employer and can reduce costs in training more experienced workers over younger, newer candidates.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was later amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act in 1986 and fortifies by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.