WASHINGTON — Age-related discrimination in the workplace still exists 50 years after the enactment of legislation designed to prevent it, aging experts and advocates told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday.

Laurie McCann, senior attorney for the AARP Foundation Litigation, said the law “should not be treated as a second-class civil rights statute providing older workers far less protection than other civil rights laws.”

McCann urged the EEOC to be more aggressive in pursuing age discrimination cases.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first in a series aimed at assessing the state of age discrimination 50 years after it became illegal. Commissioners listened to experts and asked questions about possible solutions but there was no set plan for how to address the concerns raised.

Victoria Lipnic, acting EEOC chair, said the commission would work to “ensure opportunities are based on ability, not age.”

The agency receives about 20,000 age discrimination complaints each year, she said. “No one should be denied a job or should lose a job based on assumptions or stereotypes,” Lipnic said.

McCann said discrimination begins as early as the job search. She cited job listings that include maximum years of experience and others that require applicants to be “digital natives,” meaning the applicants grew up using technology.

Research out of Tulane University examined more than 40,000 applications or resumes sent for 13,000 job postings across the country. The positions were mostly entry-level, a type of job both young workers and older workers often try to get. On average, senior applicants got fewer callbacks. The research also found that for older women, the discrimination is more severe and starts earlier compared to older men.

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