ANNCR: Age Discrimination – Today on Congressional Moment.
The average life expectancy for Americans was 35 years when the country was founded, and has been rising steadily since then. As the workforce grew older, many Americans worked well into their 50s and 60s, usually retiring at age 65.
By the 1960s, more and more people were able to continue working well beyond age 65. But these long-time employees became more expensive for employers to keep as they moved up the salary scale.
Thousands of older workers and job seekers were victims of age discrimination. They were fired, forced to resign, passed over for promotions, and not hired simply because of their age. Reports of older workers being laid off just before their pension rights locked in, were common.
Congress heard testimony from many victims of age discrimination, and recognized the need for a law to provide protection. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was enacted on December 15th, 1967, stating that all employment decisions - hiring, firing, lay-offs, and changes in benefit packages - must have a legitimate basis, and nothing to do with age.
The 1976 amendment to this Act raised the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 70. A 1986 amendment eliminated mandatory retirement ages completely. The author of the 1986 amendment, Representative Claude Pepper, was 86 at that time, and it was signed into law by Ronald Reagan, who, at the age of 75, was the oldest man to have been President.
STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at congress.indiana.edu.