How Do Age Discrimination Laws Affect Older Workers?

Joanna N. Lahey

WOB#5

Introduction

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age-based discrimination against older workers through hiring, firing, layoffs, compensation and other conditions of employment. The law covers most workers age 40 and older in firms with 20 or more employees. The question is whether the ADEA and similar state laws have helped or hurt older workers. On the one hand, the legislation may have prevented companies from unfairly dismissing older workers. On the other hand, the fear of lawsuits may have dissuaded employers from hiring older workers. If so, the law would benefit “insiders” who already have jobs but harm “outsiders” seeking employment. This brief discusses the history, mechanics, and impact of age protection laws in the United States. It summarized previous research and presents new findings using data from the Current Population Survey…