A Fresh Look at an Old Problem-Age Discrimination in Employment: Is There A Demographic and Political Trap?

Richard J. Hunter Jr., John H. Shannon, Henry J. Amoroso


This article asserts that age discrimination in the workplace remains a major problem in society today. The article traces the origin of legislation protecting older Americans from discrimination in the workplace from its earliest origins at the turn of the twentieth century and outlines the types of age discrimination and the remedies for violations of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, better known as the ADEA.  The article also describes the major exceptions to the legislation and issues relating to ADEA waivers. The article concludes with an analysis of several important legal cases which call into question the vitality of the ADEA today and also offers several suggestions for future legislative and administrative actions in order to assure that the rights of older Americans are fully protected in the workplace.

Full Text:



Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (1967). 29 U.S.C. Sections 621-634.

Americans With Disabilities Act. (1990). 42 U.S.C. Section 12101.

Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls. (1991). 499 U.S. 107 (United States Supreme Court).

Beranbaum, J. A. (2003). Economic damages in an employment case: Calculations and assumptions. [Online] Available: https://www.bestlawyers.com/Content/Downloads/Articles/2211_1.pdf (January 12, 2018).

Burch v. Fluor Corporation. (1994). 867 F. Supp. 873 (District Court, Eastern District of Missouri).

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Available: https://www.bls.gov/ (Accessed January 14, 2018).

Cheeseman, H. R. (2002). The legal and regulatory environment (Third edition). Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Prentice Hall.

Civil Rights Act of 1964. (1964). Public Law 88-352.

Cockerham, W. S., & Brockhoeft, L. (2018). Are pain and suffering and punitive damages recoverable under the ADEA and FLSA? The 5th circuit issues inconsistent decisions. Healthcare Law Insights [Online] Available: https://www.healthcarelawinsights.com/category/labor-employment (February 27, 2018)

Cox, L. (2009). We will live longer in 2050. ABC News.com [Online] Available: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ActiveAging/humans-live-longer-2050-scientists-predict/story?id=9330511 (January 11, 2018).

Coxwell, K. (2015). Average retirement income 2016: How does it compare to your plans? New Retirement [Online] Available: https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/average-retirement-income-2016-how-does-it-compare-to-your-plans/ (December 1, 2015).

Dean v. Anderson Security Insurance Co. (1977). 564 F.2d 97 (5th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Department of Labor. Available: https://www.dol.gov/ (Accessed January 14, 2018).

Donahue, J. J. (2003). Foundations of employment discrimination law (Second edition). New York: Foundation Press.

Eckles v. Consolidated Rail Corp. (1996). 94 F.3d 1041 (7th Circuit Court of Appeals).

EEOC v. Home Insurance Co. (1982). 672 F.2d 252 (2nd Circuit Court of Appeals).

EEOC v. Texas Roadhouse, Inc. (2017). Case No.:1:11-cv-11732-DJC.

England, D. C. (2018). Damages for winning an age discrimination case. Nolo.com [Online] Available: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/damages-winning-age-discrimination-case.html (Accessed January 11, 2018).

Enlow v. Salem-Keizer Yellow Cab Co. (2004). 389 F.3d 812 (9th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Estreicher, S. (2017). Achieving antidiscrimination objectives through ‘safe harbor” rules for cases of chronic hiring aversion. Journal of Law & Public Affairs, 2, 1-12.

Farrell, C. (2017). Supreme Court turns its back on age discrimination, Next Avenue [Online] Available: http://www.nextavenue.org/the-supreme-court-turns-its-back-on-age-discrimination/ (July 13, 2017).

Feuer, A. (2005). When are releases of claims for ERISA plan benefits effective? The John Marshall Law Review, 38, 773-866.

Fischman, R. L. (1986). BFOQ defense in ADEA suits: scope of 'duties of the job. Articles by Maurer Faculty, Paper 870. Available: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/facpub/870 (Accessed January 10, 2018).

Fitz v. First Tennessee Production Credit Association. (1989). 861 F.2d. 884 (6th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Fleck, C. (2004). Forced out, older workers are back. AARP Bulletin [Online] Available: https://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-2014/workplace-age-discrimination-infographic.html (May 2004).

Foreman, M. L. (2010). Gross v. FBL Financial Services – Oh so gross! University of Memphis Law Review, 40(4), 681-704.

Free by 50. (2012). Household income distribution for senior citizens. Free by 50 [Online] Available: http://www.freeby50.com/2012/12/household-income-distribution-for.html (December 12, 2012).

Friedman, L. M. (1984). ADEA and ADA assessed, in Foundations of employment discrimination law, 494-497 (John J. Donahue III, ed.).

Glenn, J. J., & Little, K. (2014). A study of the age discrimination in employment act of 1967. GPSolo [Online], 31(6). Available: https://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2014.html

Gosselin, P. (2017). Supreme Court won’t take up R.J. Reynolds age discrimination case, Pro Publico [Online] Available: https://www.propublica.org/article/supreme-court-rj-reynolds-age-discrimination-case (June 26, 2017).

Granzin, K. L., & Grikscheit, G. M. (1976). What is consumerism? Advances in Consumer Research, 3, 68-72.

Griffin, P. (1977). The problem of involuntary retirement before age 65. Marquette Law Review, 60(4), 1053-1082.

Gross v. FBL Financial Security. (2009). 557 U.S. 167 (United States Supreme Court).

Harper, M. C. (1997). ADEA doctrinal impediments to the fulfillment of the Wirtz report agenda. University of Richmond Law Review, 31, 757-793.

Harper, M. C. (2013). Reforming the Age Discrimination in Employment Act: Proposals and prospects. Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, 16(1), 13-49.

Harpring v. Continental Oil, Co. (1980). 628 F.2d 406 (5th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Hasko, J., Holoch, A., & Young, N. (1982). Bibliography: Gerontology and the law: A selected bibliography. Southern California Law Review, 56, 289-ff.

Hazen Paper v. Biggins. (1993). 506 U.S. 604 (United States Supreme Court).

Henkel, J. W. (2000). Waiver of claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act after Oubre v. Energy Operations, Inc. Wake Forest Law Review, 35, 395-423.

Hogan, H., Perez, D., & Bell, W. R. (2008). Who (really) are the first baby boomers? Joint Statistical Meeting Proceedings, Social Science Section (American Statistical Association), 1009-1016. Available: https://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p25-1138.pdf.

HR Hero. (2018). HR guide to employment law: a practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including discrimination. [Online] Available: http://topics.hrhero.com/older-workers-benefit-protection-act-owbpa/ (Accessed February 7, 2018).

Hunter, R. J., & Shannon, J. H. (2016). The confluence of the Americans with Disabilities Act and administrative law: The case of the recalcitrant or perhaps dangerous employee. Texas Tech Administrative Law Journal, 18(1), 83-101.

International Union v. Johnson Controls. (1991). 499 U.S. 187 (United States Supreme Court).

Issachharoff, S., & Harris, E. W. (1997). Is age discrimination really age discrimination? The ADEA’s unnatural solution. New York University Law Review, 72, 780-837.

Johnson, J. (2009). Reasonable factors other that age: the emerging specter of ageist stereotypes. Seattle University Law Review, 33, 49-91.

Kovarsky, I., & Kovarsky, J. (1974). Economic, medical, and legal aspects of the age discrimination laws in employment. Vanderbilt Law Review, 27(5), 839-926.

Lahey, J. (2006). State age protection laws and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. NBER Working Paper 12048. https://doi.org/10.3386/w12048

Loeb v. Textron, Inc. (1979). 600 F.2d 1003 (1st Circuit Court of Appeals).

MacDonald, W. K. L., Fabian, E. S., & Dong, S. (2010). Best practices in developing reasonable accommodations in the workplace: findings based on the research literature. The Rehabilitation Professional, 16(4), 221-232.,

Marion, J. H. (1986). Legal and equitable remedies under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Maryland Law Review, 41(2), 298-351.

Moberly, M. (2008). The disability history mystery: assessing the employer’s reasonable accommodation obligation in “record of disability” cases. Pepperdine Law Review, 35, 1-45.

Mollica, P., & Sagafi, J. C. (2017). Texas Roadhouse age bias trial shows relevance of ADEA, Law 360 [Online] Available: https://www.outtengolden.com/texas-roadhouse-age-bias-trial-shows-relevance-of-adea (February 2, 2017).

Mosisa, A., & Hipple, S. (2006). Trends in labor force participation in the United States. Monthly Labor Review, 35-57 [Online]. Available: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mir/2006/10/art3abs.htm/ (October 2006).

Neumark, D. (2008). The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the challenge of population aging. NBER Working Paper 1437. Available: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14317 (Accessed January 13, 2018). https://doi.org/10.3386/w14317

Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. (1990). 29 U.S.C. Section 623 (Amending the Age Discrimination in Employment Act).

Olshansky, S. J., et al. (2009). Aging in America in the 21st century: Demographic forecasts from the MacArthur Foundation research network on an aging society. Trends in labor force participation in the United States. Milbank Quarterly, 87(4), 842-862. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0009.2009.00581.x

Ortman, J. M., Velkoff, V., & Hogan, H. (2014). An aging nation: the older population in the United States. United States Census Bureau (Current Population Reports) [Online] Available: http://www.census.gov (Accessed January 12, 2018).

Oubre v. Energy Operations, Inc. (1998). 522 U.S. 422 (United States Supreme Court).

Peeler, R., & Haffner, E. (2015). Selected developments in retaliation law. [Online] Available: https://www.Americanbar.org/contact/dam/aba/events/labor-law/2015/november.

Perron, R. (2013/2014). Staying ahead of the curve 2013 (updated 2014). AARP multicultural work and career study. [Online] Available: https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/economics/info-2014/staying-ahead-curve-work.html/ (February 2013/July 2014).

Pfutenreuter, R. H. (2009). The curious case of disparate impact under the ADEA: Reversing the theory’s development into obsolescence. Minnesota Law Review, 94(2), 467-504.

Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC. (2016). 843 F.3d 1062 (5th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Posner, R. A. (1995). Age discrimination by employers and the issue of mandatory retirement in Aging and old age (Richard A. Posner, ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Books (Chapter 13).

Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. (1967). Senate 2189 (112th Congress).

Purcell, P. (2005). Older workers: Employment and retirement trends. Congressional Research Service [Online]. Available: http://aging.senate.gov/crs/pension34.pdf (September 14, 2005).

Pynes, J. E. (2015). The ADEA and its exemptions on the mandatory retirement provisions for firefighters. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 34-45.

Reinhart, B. (1987). Interpreting section 4(f) (2) of the ADEA: Does anyone have a “plan”? University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 135, 1055-1087. https://doi.org/10.2307/3312055

RocketSwag.com. (2018). Types of age discrimination. RocketSwag.com [Online] Available: http://www.rocketswag.com/retirement/elderly-law/age-discrimination/Types-Of-Age-Discrimination.htm (Accessed February 6, 2018).

Rupe, A., & Malone, K. (2017). Examining damages in ADEA retaliation claims. [Online] Available: https://www.law360.com/articles/927805/examining-damages-in-adea-retaliation-claims.

Sade, R. M. (2012). The graying of America: challenges and controversies. Journal of Law and Medical Ethics, 40(1), 6-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-720X.2012.00639.x

Seniorsmatter. (2018)/ Older Americans voting patterns. [Online] Available: http://seniorsmatter.com/older-americans-voting-patterns/ (Accessed January 15, 2018).

Sewell, D., & Rugaber, C. A. (2017). In US, factory jobs are high-tech, but the workers are not. Associated Press (Business News) [Online]. Available: https://www.inddist.com/news/2017/08/us-factory-jobs-are-high-tech-workers-are not (August 17, 2017).

Singer, J. (2014). The battle for the senior vote. Daily Kos [Online] Available: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/26/1337541/-The-battle-for-the-senior-vote (October 26, 2014).

Sok, E. (2004). Record unemployment among older workers does not keep them out of the job market. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [Online] Available: https://www.bis.gov/opub/ils/summary_10_04/older_workers.htm (Accessed February 6, 2018).

Spagnuolo v. Whirlpool Corp. (1983). 717 f.2d 114 (4th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Sperino, S. (2013). Revitalizing state discrimination laws. George Mason Law Review, 20, 545-590.

Statutory Materials

Tecson, D. J. (2007). Federal remedies in employment discrimination actions. [Online] Available: http://www.chuhak.com/37D475/images/stories/PDFs/ch9tecson.pdf (Accessed January 12, 2018).

U.S. Census Bureau. Available: https://www.census.gov/ (Accessed January 14, 2018).

United States Department of Labor. (1965). The older American worker: age discrimination in employment. Available: https://openlibrary.org/works/OL639356W/The_older_American_worker_age_discrimination_in_employment (Accessed February 7, 2018).

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2018a). Age discrimination in employment act (charges filed with EEOC). Available: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/adea.cfm (Accessed January 8, 2018).

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (2012). EEOC issues final rule on RFOA. Available: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-29-12.cfm (March 29, 2012).

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2018b). Facts about age discrimination. Available: https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/age.html (Accessed January 12, 2018).

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. (2013). 570 U.S. 338 (United States Supreme Court).

Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center. (2017). 849 F.3d 588 (5th Circuit Court of Appeals), cert denied, 2017 U.S. Lexis 4193 (United States Supreme Court).

Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. (2016). 839 F.3d 958 (11th Circuit Court of Appeals).

Villescas v. Richardson. (2001). 145 F. Supp.2d 1228 (United States District Court for the District of Colorado).

Woodruff, B. B. (1973). Unprotected until 40: the limited scope of the age discrimination in employment act of 1967. Indiana Law Journal, 73(4), 1295-1312.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jpag.v8i1.12648

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Journal of Public Administration and Governance  ISSN 2161-7104

Copyright © Macrothink Institute

'Macrothink Institute' is a trademark of Macrothink Institute, Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'macrothink.org' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.