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ADEA@50 Snapshots by Decade: 1977-87

ADEA@20 (1977 - 1987): Congress and the Supreme Court solidify the shared goals of the ADEA and Title VII and expand protections to most workers age 40 and older.

To strengthen enforcement of the ADEA and align it with enforcement of Title VII, President Jimmy Carter shifts responsibility for the ADEA to the EEOC. This makes the EEOC the lead federal agency for equal employment opportunity. 

In a series of cases, the Supreme Court recognizes that the ADEA grew out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and shares a common purpose. The Court holds that interpre­tations of Title VII be applied "with equal force in the context of age discrimination." Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 121 (1985). See also Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575 (1978); Western Air Lines, Inc. v. Criswell, 472 U.S. 400 (1985); and Johnson v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 472 U.S. 353 (1985).

Congress continues to expand the ADEA. In the 1978 ADEA amendments, Congress removes the age-70 limit on coverage for federal employees, but raises the age of protection for private and public sector workers from age 65 to 70. Congress also makes the right to a jury trial explicit and adds language to prohibit a seniority system or benefit plan from requiring or permitting involuntary retirement.

Later acknowledging that the age-70 cap on coverage was arbitrary, Congress ultimately does away with it in the 1986 ADEA amendments. In signing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act Amendment of 1986, President Ronald Reagan remarks: 

Discrimination against older workers is a matter of great concern to this nation because of the need to sustain and enhance our productive capacity and attain the goal of fairness in employment opportunity for all American workers.