Age Discrimination in Employment

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits workplace discrimination against employees 40 years old or older, celebrates its 40th birthday this month. With the ADEA came the prohibition of mandatory retirement and mistreatment in the workplace based on age.

Today, all baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — in the workforce are protected under the ADEA. Currently, boomers make up about one-third of the U.S. workforce. By 2010, estimates reveal that workers aged 45 to 54 will increase 21%; the number of workers aged 55 to 64 will increase 52%.

Although the ADEA has been around for nearly half a century, signs of age discrimination have shown no signs of abating. In 2006, the federal government received approximately 16,500 age discrimination complaints, collecting $51.5 million in settlements. More recently in 2007, Best Buy Co. settled a class action age discrimination lawsuit brought by 44 former IT employees in 2004.

As baby boomers inch toward retirement, age discrimination suits will undoubtedly continue to rise unless employers change their perception.