What Workers Need to Know About the Law of Age Discrimination in California
Most people do not think of age discrimination being an issue until they are the victims of it themselves.
Age discrimination is a long-standing issue, one that has caused countless individuals to be wrongfully terminated, passed over for employment, and demoted for decades.
For this reason, and as the United States’ elderly population is expected to surge in coming years, it is more important than ever to stop age discrimination in its tracks.
Ending such discrimination may begin with you.
The Laws That Prohibit Age Discrimination in California
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) & the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
There are two sets of laws that govern California employers regarding age discrimination:
- California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act; and
- The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to employers with a minimum of five employees. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), however, applies to those with 20 or more.
Though the courts often refer to the ADEA, as the legislative intent behind the FEHA is largely the same as the federal laws, if there is a question as to which law to follow, they will use the one that offers the most protection to employees. In this case, it would be the FEHA.
Under both laws, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees over the age of 40 because of their age. Though discrimination comes in many forms, in the workplace, it refers to the act of treating someone differently because of their age with respect to one or more of the following:
- Their compensation;
- Job assignments
- Work conditions; and
- The terms and privileges of their employment.
It is important to note that age discrimination can occur at any stage of employment, and not just during. It is illegal at all stages. Phases at which discrimination can and does occur includes:
- During the recruitment period (if recruiting materials specify an age, or claim that the company wants to foster a “youthful environment”);
- During the hiring process;
- When considering promotions;
- When making decisions regarding raises;
- When making determinations regarding layoffs or firing people;
- When setting retirement requirements;
- When considering training opportunities (or setting age limits for who can be trained);
- When creating apprentice programs; and
- When determining employee benefits.
Though California’s FEHA states that age discrimination against “anyone” is unlawful, the law only applies in an employment context. As a result, only certain groups of people may benefit from the state’s protections. Those people include:
- Traditional employees, which includes individuals whom the employer has agreed to hire and those who are under the direction and control of the employer;
- Job applicants;
- Independent contractors;
- Temporary hires;
- Immediate family members;
- Unpaid interns; and
That said, there are some exceptions to the rule, which are allowable under Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ).
Exception to Age Discrimination Laws
Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ)
Bona fide occupational qualification is a practice that allows employers the right to discriminate against an employee or employees over the age of 40 if the decision to do so meets the following requirements:
- A policy or job posting excludes a group of individuals on the basis of age;
- The decision is justified because nearly all excluded individuals are unable to perform the job safely and efficiently; and
- Without the requirement, the employer’s operations would be undermined.
If each of these requirements is met, the employer can lawfully exclude a person from performing a particular job, no matter if said person is a traditional employer, independent contractor, temporary hire, or volunteer.
California Age Discrimination Examples
Age discrimination is not limited to one or more actions or inactions, and there are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which an employer may discriminate against older employees.
Some common examples of potentially illegal actions include:
- An employee older than 40 is let go for no apparent reason;
- An employee older than 40 receives an unexpected demotion for no apparent reason;
- A younger employee is rewarded with a promotion and more opportunities for work, while an employee older than 40, who has demonstrated the same level of performance and more expertise, was not;
- Company layoffs occur in which only older employees are let go;
- A person older than 40 was turned down for a job because the employer wants a younger-looking person to fill the role;
- An employee older than 40 receives an uncharacteristic negative job evaluation for made-up reasons; and
- An employee older than 40 is constantly harassed by his or her supervisors and coworkers because of age.
Some more subtle age discrimination techniques occur on paper and via a company’s policies and practices.
Though many policies are created without an intent to discriminate, any that include a clause or clauses that had or has a disproportionately adverse effect on individuals over the age of 40 is illegal.
Filing an Age Discrimination Case in California
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against in the workplace because of age, you have legal rights.
Age discrimination is illegal no matter which way you look at it, and it can have an adverse effect on a person’s career and life.
An experienced Los Angeles age discrimination lawyer can help you fight discrimination and get your life back on track.
If you hope to fight the discrimination, you need to be able to age discrimination did, in fact, occur.
Not all types of age discrimination are prohibited, so in order to win your case, you need to show that:
- The employer or entity is one that is covered by federal and/or state discrimination laws;
- You, the employee, or applicant in question is 40 years or older;
- You, the employee, or the applicant was adversely affected by the employer’s actions; and
- The employer took the action he or she did because of the age of you, the employee, or the applicant.
Start building your case today and reach out to the age discrimination lawyers at Workplace Rights Law Group to discuss your situation, your rights, and your options. Each case evaluation is free and confidential. Call today to get started.