Can the ADEA Meet the Challenges of an Aging Population?
As the boomers age, many workers over 65 can be expected to leave their long-term career employment and move into part-time or shorter-term jobs. As a result, age discrimination in hiring may become more important than it has been in recent decades.
- If large numbers of older adults begin to seek bridge jobs after leaving full-time careers, the focus of ADEA enforcement efforts on terminations might not be as valuable going forward. Instead, it becomes more important to figure out how to ensure that age discrimination does not deter the hiring of older adults after leaving full-time work.
- The evidence on both the enforcement and the effectiveness of the ADEA suggests that the law may be relatively ineffective with regard to the hiring of older workers. There may be limitations on how effectively the regulatory and judicial systems address discrimination in hiring, and it would be useful to consider whether this effectiveness can be increased. However, in crafting any policy changes intended to boost the hiring of older workers, it is important to remember the underlying economic barriers to this hiring and to focus on rooting out only the discriminatory behavior.
- Because disability rates rise with age, an increasing share of workers covered by the ADEA may also experience work-limiting disabilities. Hence, employers may have to be concerned with discrimination claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the ADEA. The combined impact of workers being protected by both laws may have been to reduce employment, although there is limited research on the aged 65-plus population. An important challenge will be thinking creatively about how to continue protecting the aged and disabled from employment discrimination while not scaring employers away from hiring older workers who are relatively likely to experience some disability as they age.
Contact: Sara Rix, AARP Public Policy Institute
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