Reagan Signs Bill Making It Illegal to Set Mandatory Retirement Age

From Times Wire Services

President Reagan, who is scheduled to retire in two years at the age of 77, signed into law Saturday a bill making it illegal for most employers to set a mandatory retirement age.

“With the signing of this legislation, we take another important step by ensuring that the many individuals 70 years of age and older who have valuable contributions to make will now have the opportunity to do so,” the nation’s oldest President said in a written statement.

Reagan signed the bill, which makes it illegal for companies with more than 20 employees to set a mandatory retirement age, during a campaign appearance in Anaheim.

Takes Effect Jan. 1

The landmark civil rights legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, will give tens of thousands of elderly Americans every year the opportunity to remain on the job.

“Abolishing age discrimination will offer new hope to older workers who are desperate to maintain their independence and dignity,” said Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), 86, the oldest congressman and chief sponsor of the measure.


Congress gave final approval to the bill on Oct. 17 after amending it to exempt for seven years college professors and state and local police officers, firefighters and prison guards.

Current law says workers in the private sector can be forced to retire at 70.

“It is also entirely possible that this bill will lead to the dismissal of older workers,” said Mark de Bernardo, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s labor law expert.

“Now, a company may carry an elderly employee whose skills have diminished--eyesight or dexterity--until he reaches retirement age,” de Bernardo said. “But if there is no retirement age, there is no reason to give deferential treatment. Companies may become more rigorous in employee evaluation.”