The Senate passed legislation yesterday raising the age at which most Americans can be forced to retire from 65 to 70. The vote was [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to 7.
The bill generally parallels legislation passed earlier by the House but differs in that it would continue to permit forced retirement at age 65 for tenured college professors and some high-paid business executives. The House bill would treat them the same as other workers.
These and other differences, including when the legislation takes effect and whether to ban forced retirement for federal workers, will have to be resolved in a House-Senate conference. Sponsors of the legislation have said they hope to reach a compromise before Congress adjourns for the year.
The Senate bill would take effect Jan. 1, 1979. The House measure would be effective six months after enactment.
The House bill proposes to lift the present requirement that federal workers retire at age 70, thus permitting them to work indefinitely. The Senate would continue to require retirement at 70.
Neither version of the legislation would affect existing age qualifications for Social Security. Collective bargaining agreements requiring retirement before age 70 would have to be in compliance with the new law by Jan. 1, 1980, however.
It is estimated that one-third to one-half of the American work force of roughly 95 million faces compulsory retirement at a fixed age, usually 65. The legislation would not require these workers to continue on the job until age 70 but would extend to them the right to do so.
Impetus for passage of the legislation, which its proponents characterized as a civil rights measure to protect the elderly against job discrimination, concludes with a trend toward more early retirements, including union demands for incentives for early retirement to create job openings. Hence its impact on the composition of the work force and unemployment is expected to be marginal.
Disputing claims by the bill's opponents that it would reduce employment opportunities for women, minorities and young people, Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) said the Labor Department has estimated that increasing the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 70 would add only about 200,000 people to the work force a year.
It is a matter of basic civil rights that individuals be treated in employment solely on the basis of their ability to perform a job. A fundamental need of older people is to remain an active member of society," said Williams, chairman of the Senate Human Resources Committee.
Yesterday's debate in the Senate focused on what groups, if any, should continue to have to retire at age 65. The Senate wound up voting to continue permitting mandatory retirement at 65 for executives whose pensions total at least $20,000 a year exclusive of Social Security, for tenured college professors (but not elementary and secondary school teachers) and for jobs where age is deemed a factor in performance, such as law enforcement officers and air traffic controllers.
The exemption for universities was pushed by Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.), who said schools should be allowed to retire professors at 65 to make room for younger teachers and new ideas.
The American Association of Retired Persons and National Retired Teachers Association objected to the exemption for executives and professors, saying protection against age discrimination should be available to all workers.