What Is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is a U.S. statute that protects certain workers 40 years of age and older from workplace discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) specifically prohibits the use of an employee’s or job applicant’s age as a factor in "hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment." 

Key Takeaways

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects those 40 years old and older from workplace discrimination.
  • The Act says those 40 and older can't be discriminated against during hiring or firing, as well as other instances.
  • The Act applies to companies with 20 or more workers.
  • This Act is meant to minimize the damaging effects of long-term unemployment on older workers.

Understanding Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, passed in 1967, cited the frequent practice of using “arbitrary age limits” to make staffing decisions. It noted that the loss of job skills due to long-term unemployment disproportionately affects older workers. The law’s objective was to minimize these damaging effects. The Act, which is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, applies to private and public employers with at least 20 workers (on a regular basis within the current or prior calendar year), as well as to union practices affecting union members.

The rules that form the foundation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act can be found in Title 29, Chapter 14 of the U.S. Code. The intent of the act, as per the Congressional statement of findings and purpose, is "to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment."

The ADEA was first amended in 1986 and again in 1991 with the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. For more, see the EEOC's Age Discrimination informational page.

Special Considerations

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act outlines a comprehensive ban of discriminatory practices based on age. Specifically, it prohibits the following:

  • Discrimination in hiring practices, the awarding or withholding of promotions, wages, terminations, and layoffs.
  • The use of or making statement regarding certain age preference or limitations.
  • Denying benefits to older employees. Note: An employer is only allowed to cut benefits based on age if the cost of providing reduced benefits to older workers is the same as what providing full benefits to younger workers would cost.
  • Mandatory retirement at a certain age. Note: mandatory retirement for workers based on age is permitted with executives who are entitled to a pension that pays over an annual minimum sum.

Victims of age discrimination as outlined in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act are eligible to receive compensatory and punitive damages if reinstatement is not feasible and/or if the employer intentionally violated the law.