Law Enforcement and Age Discrimination Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Many of these have been challenged throughout the years.

In fact, here have been a number of cases challenging age discrimination within this more complicated situation. In the case, EEOC v. City of Janesville an individual fought the fifty-five-year cut off age for police officers in that county (Vance 1986). Opponents of the age cut off argued that age discrimination was acceptable only in "particular business," meaning for police officers on the front line of duty, and was not acceptable in cases where police officers had moved from the field into other positions in the department that required less physical strength and fitness capabilities. However, the opposition was shot down. EEOC v. City of St. Paul was another case where opponents of age discrimination wanted to clarify that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was not to use simple age guidelines as a way to terminate police officers, but all removal should be based on abilities alone, despite of age (Vance 1986). This was similar to another case, Mahoney v. Trabucco, where "the unanimous opinion expressed the concept that within any particular business, specific conditions may exist requiring separate age limitations" (Vance 1986 p 427). Essentially, age cut offs cannot be used in the same manner across all positions within law enforcement. A police dispatcher does not need to be in the same peak physical condition as a member of the SWAT team, and as such, age discriminatory practices must be reasonable for such positions within law enforcement that do not require necessary physical fitness. The lack of a clear definition of how much of a role age can play makes it difficult to effectively generate more cohesive legal decisions throughout the years in regards to termination or demotion processes dealing with an older workforce population.

Moreover, many law enforcement agencies use age limits in their hiring processes as well. Here, the research suggests that "the use of an age limit in initial protective service hiring has been explained as necessary because of the extended periods of training and the need for availability of career progression in order to attract candidates" (Vance 1986 p 438). When a police officer is hired at an older age, that essentially limits the amount of training that he or she can be exposed to, thus limiting the extent of their career overall. As such, there are age limits in regards to new hires that are practiced throughout law enforcement agencies across the country. As such, "the employer does not want to put time and money into training someone who they plan to retire ten to fifteen years later" (Vance 1986 p 441). Age limits for hiring practices have become the latest controversial trend in law enforcement agencies. This is even witnessed in federal law enforcement agencies as well. According to Bransford (2012), "Congress has specifically said that it wants a young and vigorous workforce in these professions and has authorized a more lucrative retirement system for those who work in the covered field for at least 20 years." This is in order to meet a series of new challenges and demands in an ever changing and technological world environment. Congress has specifically stated that a younger workforce would potentially provide stronger foundations for success in nation and worldwide law enforcement goals.

This is still a very controversial field, without concrete answers to ensure a greater good is met. No, "the absence of definitive, validated performance tests and a job task analysis for police officers means that each individual assessment of a police officer for retirement or a police candidate for hiring is a potential source of litigation," (Schiff 1993 p 18). In order to further test the nature of age discrimination in law enforcement roles, several tests have been established throughout the years. Safety factors have long been compared to the increased age restrictions present in law enforcement agencies across the country (Schiff 1993). These tests evaluate the validity of a relationship between a younger workforce and increased safety results, thus benefiting the community at large.

From this perspective, age restrictions serve out of a utilitarian perspective in that they serve the greater benefit of the good and are thus worth the potential risks to a few.

Contemporary judicial decisions have continued to back trends that allow levels of age discrimination in employment decisions, both in regards to hiring and termination of employees within various law enforcement agencies. Such trends are also spurred on by continuing legislative efforts to allow the exemption of law enforcement agencies to typical age discrimination rules and regulation. The primary idea remains the importance of public safety. Since police officers and other law enforcement officials play an important role in that safety, there has been a general outcry for a younger, more vigorous workforce. Still, the lack of a clear definition between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in regards to age discriminatory practices in law enforcement has generated a back log of ongoing suits and complications. It is clear that Congress and local officials need to correlate a stronger understanding of what is off limits in the future.


Bransford, Bill. (2012). Age discrimination vs. mandatory retirement. Federal Times. Web.

Idaho Commission on Human Rights. (2007). Age discrimination. Human Rights. Web.

Schiff, Martin. (1993). The Age Discrimination in Employment Act: Whither the bona fide occupational qualification and law enforcement exemptions? St. John's Law Review, 67(1), 13-44.

Sloan, Eric. (2009). Police over 40: Age discrimination is now easier for your department. Examiner. Web.

United States Department of Labor. (1975). Age Discrimination Act of 1975. Statutes. Web.

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1967). The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Statutes. Web.

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1986). ADEA Amendments 1986. The Law. Web.

Vance, K.K. (19986). Fitness or age as an occupational qualification for protective service workers: A choice between bona fide criterion or arbitrary…

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