Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging, coined the term "ageism" in 1969 and likened it to other forms of bigotry such as racism and sexism (Robinson, 1994). Butler defined ageism as "a process of systematic stereotyping and discrimination against people because they are old" (Robinson, 1994). Today, ageism is more broadly defined as any prejudice or discrimination against or in favor of an age group (Robinson, 1994).
A. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
Congress enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967 to address discriminatory practices that affect older workers. Generally, the ADEA prohibits an employer from refusing to hire, discharging or otherwise discriminating against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of age (Zall, 2000, p. 3941). In particular, the ADEA defines "older employees" as workers who are aged 40 and above.
One of the most recent cases decided regarding the ADEA was reported in September. In that case, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that under the Age Discrimination in Employment Medicare-eligible retirees can sue their employers if their employers provide them with lesser health care benefits than other, younger retirees (Anonymous, 2000, p. 8). The trade magazine Business Insurance reported that the court's decision shocked employers because they have long thought that the ADEA applies only to employees and not to retirees. In fact, the magazine maintains that the legislative history of ADEA demonstrates that Congress intended that the law would apply to the benefit programs offered to a company's active employees and not to its retiree population (Anonymous, 2000, p. 8).
Despite this legislative history, the 3rd Circuit ruled the language of the ADEA does not itself exclude retirees and the benefit plans offered to them from ADEA's reach. Business...