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Contemporary Issues in Aging

Age discrimination in the workplace significantly impacts older employees and their families. It also affects the economy; in the US, the estimated cost of age discrimination in the workplace was $545 billion in lost wages in 2018 (Suh, 2021). Therefore, the Age Discrimination Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects workers from arbitrary workplace discrimination. This discrimination remains a major challenge in society today. People are not hired because of their age; age is used as a factor during layoffs, and employees are forced to retire early. Moreover, some employers deny their older employees some benefits, and others are harassed because of their age. Therefore, this paper will explore the demographics protected by ADEA, the types of discrimination prohibited by the act, its relevance today, and the necessary amendments as baby boomers age.

ADEA protects workers who are 40 years and above from discrimination in their workplace. The act does not protect any employee younger than 40 years, although, in some states, they have modified it to protect younger employees from discrimination. According to Neumark (2019), the low employment rate among older adults means there will be slow growth in the labor force, leading to a high dependency ratio. A demand-side barrier is created by age discrimination among adults above 40 years. Age discrimination affects both men and women. However, men are more likely to be employed than women. Therefore, they are more likely to experience age discrimination in workplaces than women.

Nonetheless, women have been involved in age discrimination when they are looking for a job than men. A man older than 40 is more likely to get a job if they apply compared to a woman of the same age. Disability laws are similar to age discrimination laws; according to various studies, disability laws are important in protecting the older population because disability rises with age (Neumark et al., 2019).

ADEA considers age discrimination as treating candidates or workers less favorably because of their age. Under Age Discrimination in Employment Act, discriminating against an employee during hiring because of age is prohibited. During hiring, employers believe that older applicants are less healthy and less productive than younger applicants. Therefore, despite the ADEA laws, employees still believe that older employees are worse productivity scores due to their level of health and motivation (Lössbroek et al., 2021). There is widespread discrimination during hiring, with the older population receiving a low hire-ability score. ADEA prohibits age discrimination in job assignments. According to the act, employees should not be subjected to an age when assigning tasks. When employees make stereotypes on job assignments of their older employees, they go against the discrimination act. However, employees ignore these laws and assign robust and urgent tasks to younger employees.

It is illegal for employers to give promotions based on age; according to ADEA, employees who promote less qualified and younger employees over older workers can be arrested. Lack of promotions due to older age limit the working life of older employees. Although these policies aim at stimulating older employees to work longer, they are affected by ageism and the lack of promotions in the presence of young and vibrant employees (Vickerstaff & Van der Horst, 2021). It is unlawful for an organization to lay off employees because of their age. However, it is a common occurrence mostly during COVID-19 when companies need to lay off their workers; the older employees were a significant target.

Most Americans who are aged 45 and above have experienced discrimination in their workplace. ADEA prohibits discrimination against older workers during training. In the current workplace, there is multi-generational employment from baby boomers to Generation Z. Although training plays a key role in bridging the gap between the generations, older employees experience discrimination during the training process, making them lag. Another prohibition by ADEA is age-based discrimination on benefits. Most organizations offer that only attract young generations, such as childcare services, student loan help, and sports outings. ADEA advocated for age-neutral benefits. Unfortunately, most benefits in the workplace are associated with young employees. Thus, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act prohibits all these discriminations and other employment terms or conditions that affect older adults.

In most states, age discrimination laws have been upheld and are effective. Moreover, the federal government has ensured that people affected by declining health and productivity do not lose their jobs. This act is still relevant today for seniors because older people continue to be discriminated against in their jobs. According to CNBC News, ageism is worsening in the contemporary working environment; over 80% of older employees report having witnessed or experienced age discrimination in their workplaces (Nova, 2022). As the economy is growing back from the COVID-19 depression, older employees have challenges in getting re-hired. Therefore, the ADEA act is more relevant today than ever because employers are shifting their attention to young and energetic employees to maximize their production, excluding the older population in the job market. Although older employees are well-qualified, they are discriminated against; most seniors today feel they are paying the price for their old age by failing to secure employment.

It is very difficult for seniors over 50 to get a job interview (unless they are applying for the US presidency). According to Cox et al. (2018), baby boomers are negatively viewed in workplaces and the hiring process. The inter-generational flood in the labor market has weakened their chances of securing employment because they are believed to impact the workplace negatively. This discrimination among older employees in workplace scenarios shows that Age Discrimination and Employment Act is more important today than it was two decades ago. The population growth means employers have a large pool of employees to choose from. Therefore, they prefer to choose the younger generation because they will have long-working years than seniors, and their popularity in the technological revolution ensures they replace the older generation.

ADEA requires several amendments as baby boomers age to secure their place in employment and ensure their receive employment benefits. There are numerous assumptions that older employees lack energy, cannot generate new ideas, and are not technology savvy. Discrimination can impact different margins of employment. Therefore, ADEA should be amended to reduce discrimination among the baby boomers who are aging and confront employers who engage in ageism. First, some states have increased damages under ADEA, and others should follow the same path to increase damages among age discrimination victims. Secondly, ADEA should be implemented to clarify to the employers that the standard establishment for discrimination is ‘age.’ The act should also allow intersectional claims, and most organizations discriminate against older women. Therefore, they should be accountable for age and gender discrimination in employment. Ageism and disability go in hand; therefore, the act should be amended to consider an integration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with ADEA.

ADEA has affected people with disability in the US. According to the disability act, people with disabilities should not be discriminated against in employment, transportation, and communication, among other areas. Age and disability go hand in hand; therefore, although ADEA works to protect the older population in employment, there is intersectionality with the disability act. The aging population suffers from mobility issues that limit their production, they are treated as people with disabilities, which limit productivity, but ADEA prohibits their discrimination.


Cox, C. B., Young, F. K., Guardia, A. B., & Bohmann, A. K. (2018). The Baby Boomer bias: The negative impact of generational labels on older workers. Journal of Applied Social Psychology48(2), 71-79.

Lössbroek, J., Lancee, B., van der Lippe, T., & Schippers, J. (2021). Age Discrimination in Hiring Decisions: A Factorial Survey among Managers in Nine European Countries. European Sociological Review37(1), 49-66.

Neumark, D. (2019). Age discrimination in the US labor market. Generations43(3), 51-58.

Neumark, D., Burn, I., Button, P., & Chehras, N. (2019). Do state laws protecting older workers from discrimination reduce age discrimination in hiring? Evidence from a field experiment. The Journal of Law and Economics62(2), 373-402.

Nova, A. (2022). How older workers can push back against the reality of ageism. CNBC News.

Suh, J. Y. (2021). Age discrimination in the workplace hurts us all. Nature Aging1(2), 147-147.

Vickerstaff, S., & Van der Horst, M. (2021). The impact of age stereotypes and age norms on employees’ retirement choices: a neglected aspect of research on extended working lives. Frontiers in Sociology, 117.


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