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The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was issued in 1967 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson and prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. While the Act permits certain age distinctions, it prohibits discrimination based on age, and provides special protection for employees of 40 years and older. The ADEA promotes equal employment opportunity for employees of all ages. The Act deals with all the stages of employment law, and prohibits discrimination during the hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation or term of employment. The ADEA applies to employers who employ at least 20 employees on a regular basis within the current or prior calendar year and is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

The ADEA was enacted as older workers “found themselves disadvantaged in their efforts to retain employment, and especially to regain employment when displaced from jobs” (SEC. 621. [Section 2] of ADEA). Therefore, the Act ensures that the potential for job performance prevails over the setting of arbitrary age considerations. 

The Act prohibits statements of specifications in age preference or limitations, it also prohibits the denial of benefits to older employees when solely based on their age, and prohibits mandatory retirement in most sectors (with the exception of executives over age 65 in high policy-making positions who are entitled to a pension over a minimum yearly amount).

The Act was amended in 1986 and 1991 by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, and again by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

[Last updated in November of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]