State Age Protection Laws and Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Joanna N. Lahey

WP#2006-24

Abstract

Some anti-discrimination laws have the perverse effect of harming the very class they were meant to protect. This paper provides evidence that age discrimination laws belong to this perverse class. It exploits an unusual aspect of the policy for enforcement of the federal 1968 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which made filing an age discrimination claim less burdensome in some states than in others. After the enforcement of the federal law, white male workers over age 50 in states where the federal government allowed 300 days to file a discrimination complaint worked between 1 and 1.5 fewer weeks per year than did workers in states without laws. These men were also .3 percentage points more likely to be retired and .2 percentage points less likely to be hired. These findings suggest that in an anti-age discrimination environment, firms seek to avoid litigation through means not intended by the legislation — by not employing older workers in the first place…