Age discrimination is illegal under both federal and state law. It is illegal to discriminate against any employee or applicant over the age of 40 on the basis of age. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, Pursuant discrimination based upon age is treated just like race and gender, and is considered a protected class. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), enacted in 1967, is the federal law that serves to protect individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. Under both laws, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment (hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, apprenticeships and training).
Although the protections under California law and federal law are similar, there are certain strategic benefits to filing claims in state vs. federal court. Under federal law, for an employee to prevail on an age discrimination claim, the employee must be able to demonstrate that the reason that the employee was terminated and/or not hired solely on the basis of age. However, under California law, an employee only has to prove that his/her age was a motivating factor in the adverse employment action, and then the burden shifts to the employee to have to prove that the employee or applicant would have been terminated and/or not hired regardless of age.
Many different types of conduct can constitute age discrimination. Examples of unlawful behavior that can trigger a successful age discrimination lawsuit include:
- Posting a job offer seeking college graduates, or qualified employees in a certain age bracket;
- Hiring a younger job applicant over a more qualified older employee just because the other applicant was younger;
- Denying older workers training or educational classes offered to other younger employees;
- Denying a promotion to an older worker, and hiring a younger person to fill the position;
- Creating a hostile work environment for older workers by discussing work after hours at a club or bar to which the older employees are not invited, making jokes or snide comments about the older workers, or routinely assigning undesirable or demeaning tasks to the older workers;
- Engaging in acts designed to encourage the older workers to quit; and
- Implementing a layoff that even with no discriminatory intent, disproportionately affects the older people at the company.
Age discrimination is unlawful, and should not be taken lightly. Pursuing a claim for age discrimination can be confusing and difficult. If you are forty years or older and believe you have suffered age discrimination, you should contact an employment attorney in your area to go over your rights. Act quickly to avoid missing out on important deadlines and potentially losing out on your claim.