Age Discrimination: It’s Time To Fight Back
Are You Too Old To Work?
Employers do not always respect the wisdom of elders. In the workplace as well as the culture at large, youth is valued over experience. But when this engrained ageism means that you’re denied an opportunity, a raise or a promotion or you are fired and replaced by a younger worker, you may be able to file an age discrimination lawsuit against your employer or would-be employer.
Age discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, including:
- Being denied medical benefits on the basis of age
- Losing a job opportunity on the basis of age (with certain exceptions)
- Being fired and replaced by a younger worker
- Making less money than a younger worker doing the same job
Age discrimination can be hard to prove, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Call the
Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., in Los Angeles, California, to discuss the details of your situation with an experienced employment law attorney.
What Are The Relevant Laws Regarding Age Discrimination In California?
In California, age discrimination is primarily governed by two main sets of laws:
- The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The ADEA is a federal law that prohibits age discrimination against employees and job applicants who are 40 years of age or older. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments, as well as private employers.
- The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): FEHA is a state law that offers broader protection against age discrimination than the ADEA. It applies to employers with 5 or more employees, and it prohibits age discrimination against individuals who are 40 years of age or older.
Both the ADEA and FEHA prohibit discrimination based on age in various aspects of employment, including hiring, promotion, compensation, benefits, training, and termination. Employers are also not allowed to retaliate against employees who assert their rights under these laws.
To file an age discrimination lawsuit in California, you typically must first file a complaint with the appropriate administrative agency:
- For claims under the ADEA, you must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. The EEOC may investigate the claim and attempt to resolve it through mediation or other means.
- For claims under FEHA, you must file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one year of the alleged discriminatory act. The DFEH may also investigate and attempt to resolve the claim.
If the administrative agency does not resolve the claim, you may receive a “right to sue” letter, which allows you to proceed with a lawsuit in court. There are various deadlines and requirements for filing a lawsuit, so it is crucial to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about age discrimination laws in California.
How Do You Prove Age Discrimination?
Proving age discrimination in employment can be approached through two primary legal theories: disparate treatment and disparate impact.
- Disparate Treatment: This theory involves showing that an employer intentionally discriminated against an individual or a group of individuals because of their age. To prove disparate treatment, the employee typically needs to establish the following:
- They are part of a protected age group (usually 40 years or older).
- They were subjected to an adverse employment action (e.g., termination, demotion, or denial of a promotion).
- They were qualified for the position or performing satisfactorily in their role.
- They were replaced by a substantially younger person or treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who are significantly younger.
In some cases, the employee may present direct evidence of discrimination (e.g., discriminatory statements or actions by the employer). However, more often, employees rely on circumstantial evidence to establish a “prima facie” case, which creates a presumption of discrimination. The employer then has the opportunity to provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action. If the employer provides such a reason, the employee must show that the employer’s stated reason is a pretext for age discrimination.
- Disparate Impact: This theory focuses on an employer’s policies or practices that, although seemingly neutral, disproportionately affect individuals in a protected age group. To prove disparate impact, the employee must demonstrate:
A specific policy or practice has a significantly disproportionate adverse impact on individuals in a protected age group.
The policy or practice is not based on a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA) or a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).
If the employee establishes a prima facie case of disparate impact, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate that the challenged policy or practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity. If the employer meets this burden, the employee may still prevail by showing that there are less discriminatory alternatives that could achieve the employer’s objectives.
Proving age discrimination can be complex, and gathering evidence to support disparate treatment or disparate impact claims can be challenging. It is crucial to consult an attorney experienced in age discrimination cases for guidance and representation.
Age Is Just A Number, But Your Bank Balance Isn’t
More and more, workers want (and need) to work longer before retirement. As the days of working at one job for decades before retiring with a pension recede farther into the past, older workers need more protection in the workplace to maintain financial security.
If you believe that you may have been discriminated against in the workplace based on your age, you need the advice of an employment lawyer who can inform you of your rights and offer frank counsel about the burden of proof. Speak directly with Todd Friedman to get the answers you need.
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