DURING my 4 years in the Presidency, I have fought discrimination in employment in all of its ugly forms with every power of my office.
In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting wage discrimination on the basis of sex for workers covered by Federal minimum wage standards.
A year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed job discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
That historic act also directed the Secretary of Labor to study another problem of employment discrimination--one which had long been ignored, and about which little was known. It was the noxious practice of discrimination because of age.
The report of the Secretary of Labor showed that, although there are now 52 million Americans between the ages of 40 and 64, half of all jobs were dosed to workers over 55, and one-fourth of all jobs were dosed to workers over 45.
It showed that workers 45 years old and older made up half of this country's long term unemployed, and over one-fourth of all the unemployed.
It showed that, of the billion dollars in unemployment insurance paid out each year, three-fourths went to workers 45 or over.
It showed that, although Americans are now living longer and enjoying better health than ever before, older workers were often barred from jobs that could be performed efficiently by workers of any age.
Those figures added up to a senseless and costly waste of human talents and energy. They showed that men and women who needed to work--who wanted to work--and who were able to work, were not being given a fair chance to work.
The need for national action was dear. In my message to Congress in January of this very year, I recommended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Yesterday I signed that act.
Its basic purpose is to outlaw discrimination in employment against persons 40 to 65 years of age. It makes proper allowance for cases where age is a bona fide qualification for employment.
This act does not compel employers and labor unions and employment agencies to choose a person aged 40 to 65 over another person. It does require that one simple question be answered fairly:
Who has the best qualifications for the job?
When improper age discrimination does occur, the act requires conciliation and persuasion. If voluntary compliance cannot be arranged, it permits court action. The act also calls for research and education to melt the misinformation and unconscious bias toward older workers that still exist today.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 gives the vital part of our labor force between 40 and 65 a better chance to go on working productively and gainfully. The country will gain as well from making better use of their skills and experience.
This is humane and practical legislation. The Congress acted wisely in passing it and I am proud to sign it.
This measure joins more than 50 other humane legislative proposals written into law during the first session of the 90th Congress.