Both federal and California state laws protect employees against discriminatory treatment. Most people are aware that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, gender, and a few other categories, but routinely overlook the fact that they also cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of age. If you suspect that you have been discriminated against due to your age, you should contact an employment lawyer to discuss whether you have any legal recourse.
Age Discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
California law prohibits age discrimination against employees who are 40 and older. As a result, employees who are 40 and older are entitled to the same protections as members of other protected classes. Furthermore, the protections against age discrimination are not just limited to the standard employer-employee relationship. They also include:
- Unions and labor organizations
- Employment agencies
- Apprenticeship and other training programs
- Severance agreements
FEHA also protects more than just people who work in a traditional employee role. It also applies to the following:
- Independent contractors
- Temporary employees
- Unpaid interns
Non-traditional employees should be aware that the protections afforded by FEHA are somewhat limited. Whatever situation you may be in, you should consider speaking with an employment law attorney to discuss what options you may have if you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of your age.
Intentional Discrimination Versus Disparate Impact
Older employees face two types of age discrimination:
- Intentional discrimination, such as when an employer lays off older workers in order to promote a “youthful corporate environment.”
- Unintentional discrimination, where an action taken by an employer has a disparate impact on employees who are 40 years or older. An example would be a reduction in benefits that affects older employees far more than younger employees.
Both types of discrimination are violations of California employment law. Most employers are knowledgeable enough to know that they should not engage in intentional discrimination, but it still happens.
However, most age discrimination claims are based on a policy or practice that has a disparate impact. These cases present unique challenges because the policy or practice is age-neutral on its face and the disparate impact can be difficult to detect.
Furthermore, employers may be able to avoid liability if they can demonstrate that the practice or policy is related to a reasonable business purpose or necessity. For example, an employer may be able to justify a new policy concerning factory employers if they can demonstrate that it was implemented to address legitimate safety concerns. In the example used above, the reduction in benefits may be permissible if the employer can demonstrate that it would cost more money to provide the same benefits to older employees as it does to younger employees.
Age discrimination cases can be complex and difficult to prove. That is why you should contact an age discrimination lawyer as soon as possible if you suspect you have been discriminated against due to your age.
Examples of Age-Based Employment Discrimination
Age discrimination can take on many different forms and occur in many different contexts. It can be overt and it can be subtle. However, any adverse action taken against you on the basis of age is discrimination and is against the law. Age discrimination can include the following:
- Age-based discriminatory hiring practices
- Being passed over for promotion or denied advancement opportunities
- Being laid off
- Forced or encouraged retirement
- Demotion in job status or reduction in responsibilities
- Denial of medical leave
- Negative performance reviews that lack merit
Layoffs are a common situation that raises questions concerning age discrimination. If the employer is struggling, they may choose to lay off employees who are paid more in an attempt to reduce overhead. If seniority is a significant component in determining compensation, the layoff could result in a disparate impact on employees who are 40 and older.
Hiring practices are another situation where age discrimination can commonly occur. An employer may limit applicants for a certain position to a certain amount of experience based on the belief that more experienced (and typically older) employees will be too difficult to train or simply will not be a good fit for the role.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to your age, it is important to emphasize that you must be able to prove your case. For example, your demotion may be due to valid concerns over your job performance rather than your age. An experienced age discrimination attorney will be able to assess whether you may have a claim.
Age-based harassment is prevalent in the workplace, largely because people fail to recognize that it is inappropriate. Many people think that making jokes or comments concerning someone’s age is harmless. Unfortunately, age-based harassment is against the law if it affects someone’s ability to do their job. Harassment can include the following:
- Comments reflecting age-based stereotypes
- Jokes related to an employee’s age or a group of employees
- Remarks indicating a preference for younger employees over older employees
- Posting or displaying ageist pictures, signs, or objects
- Behavior towards older employees that is intimidating or threatening
The occasional joke or comment is not enough to support a legal claim. In order to be actionable, you must be able to prove that the harassment was persistent enough that it created a hostile work environment, thereby creating undue stress and anxiety that negatively affected your job performance.
Talk to an Age Discrimination Lawyer at Attorneys for Employees Today
While older employees have the same protections under the law as other protected classes, age-based discrimination remains a pervasive problem. If you have been discriminated against, you may be entitled to compensation in the form of back pay and other damages, including your attorney’s fees and costs. An experienced age discrimination lawyer from our firm can help you hold your employer accountable and help you continue moving forward with your career. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 310-601-1330 or contact us online to get started.