In the past century, the United States’ government has attempted to do away with discrimination in the workplace. Beginning in 1963, legislators came together to enact the Equal Pay Act (EPA.) The act set guidelines for equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited employment based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1967, Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) meant to protect workers 40 years of age or older. Title I and Title V of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) made it illegal to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. Yet, despite legislation and attempts to enforce the laws, discrimination continues to exist in the workplace. [i]
Age discrimination takes on many forms. The ADEA strictly prohibits blatant activities such as refusing to promote and hire workers over 40; coercing them to retire; limiting benefits, training, and responsibilities; and targeting older workers during downsizing. [ii] While these activities are easy to prove and combat, age discrimination can come in the guise of spectacular early-retirement benefits that carry, in the fine print, a statement that waives the older employee’s right to sue.
[i] “Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions And Answers.” 24 May 2002.
[ii] “Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Age Discrimination.” US Department of Labor in the 21st Century. 25 February 2003. (25 February 2003).
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