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A Message from Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic

Post from Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic - May 2017

Older Americans Month

Older Americans Month honors older Americans and celebrates their contributions to our country. The EEOC recognizes the value that older workers bring to the workplace and to our economy as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) this year.

When the ADEA was enacted in 1967, arbitrary age limits for hiring and firing were common. Explicit age limits barred workers over age 45 from a quarter of private sector jobs, those over age 55 from half of such jobs, and workers over age 65 from almost all such jobs.

Much has changed in 50 years. The ADEA opened up opportunities for older workers by banning most age limits and requiring equal treatment of workers without regard to age. More older persons are in the workforce than ever before, as more older women and those over age 65 continue to work. Older workers are more educated and healthier than previous generations, and the most engaged group in the workforce.

Traditional norms about work and retirement are changing dramatically, as many older workers plan to continue working into their 70s in full- or part-time jobs, in second careers or new fields. And, contrary to stereotypes that older workers are not innovative or creative, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group.

Many employers recognize the value of older workers, citing their professionalism, strong work ethic, reliability and commitment. Research demonstrates that age diversity can improve organizational performance and the productivity of both older and younger workers with mixed-age work teams.

A few years after the ADEA was enacted, the Senate Special Committee on Aging noted that the "ADEA was enacted, not only to enforce the law, but to provide the facts that would help change attitudes." Today we ask: Have attitudes about older workers and age discrimination progressed with the dramatic changes in the workforce and the workplace?

Unfortunately, age discrimination remains a significant problem for older workers that diminishes their financial security and limits their contributions to our economy. At the EEOC, we work to change attitudes about older workers and the discriminatory practices they confront through concerted enforcement and prevention programs.

Next month the Commission will hold a public meeting on June 14 in Washington, D.C. to hear from experts who have studied age discrimination, ageist stereotypes, the challenges older workers face in getting and keeping jobs, and strategies for employers to leverage the value of an aging workforce. The meeting will launch the EEOC's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the ADEA to continue the promise of the ADEA to ensure that employment opportunities are based on ability, not age.