ADEA@10 (1967 - 1977): Congress enacts and expands the ADEA to provide civil rights protections to older workers.
On December 15, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) into law, prohibiting age discrimination against workers ages 40 to 65. In his statement the following day, he notes, "During my four years in the presidency, I have fought discrimination in employment in all of its ugly forms with every power of my office," and recognizes the ADEA as an important step in the fight for civil rights. He says these laws "require that one simple question be answered fairly: Who has the best qualifications for the job?"
The ADEA applies to private employers with 25 or more employees, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Congress charges the Department of Labor with enforcement of the ADEA to ensure vigorous enforcement, as the newly created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is consumed with a backlog of discrimination charges.
In a Special Message to the Congress on Older Americans, President Richard M. Nixon notes:
Discrimination based on age-what some people call "age-ism"-can be as great an evil in our society as discrimination based on race or religion or any other characteristic which ignores a person's unique status as an individual and treats him or her as a member of some arbitrarily defined group.
President Nixon calls for increased enforcement and expanded protections under the ADEA. Congress heeds this call and greatly expands the ADEA in 1974 to protect older workers at federal, state and local governments and those at small private employers with 20 or more employees.