What Is Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination is when a person of a particular age group is treated unfavorably compared to people of a different age group for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications or abilities. In addition to a person’s sex and race or other common distinguishing categories, a person’s chronological age falls within this group of distinguishing features called characteristics protected by law. Therefore, an individual’s age should not be the basis for discriminatory practices.
Age discrimination can take several forms:
- Older employees may be fired, denied raises and promotions, and forced to retire when younger employees in the same positions are not.
- In education, older students may be turned away from college courses or denied financial aid.
- In housing situations, age discrimination can occur when a landlord refuses to rent to an individual over a certain age.
- Age discrimination also exists in access to public places, such as access to restaurants and movie theaters.
What Is the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Age Discrimination?
You may have heard of two variations of age discrimination, direct and indirect:
- Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favorably than another person because of their age. For example, when an older employee is fired because the employer believes that workers over a certain age are too old to learn new methods or when a person is denied admission to college because of their age.
- Indirect discrimination describes an apparently neutral policy or practice that would put people of a particular age group at a disadvantage compared to others. A typical example is requiring proof of employment with monthly paystubs. Some older people may not have been in a job for years and thus do not possess an employment record. This seemingly neutral policy may exclude them.
Laws Prohibiting Age Discrimination in California
The federal government passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) back in 1967. The ADEA is a civil rights law that applies to people of all ages. The government also passed the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, both of which prohibit discrimination against applicants and employees on the basis of age. The state of California has also passed its own laws regarding age discrimination, including the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The provisions of these laws include:
- Protection for applicants and employees over the age of 40 from age-based discrimination in hiring, training, promotion, compensation, privileges, and termination.
- Prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of age in activities and programs that receive federal financial help.
State and federal laws make it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire someone 40 or older on the basis of age, as well as to terminate someone’s employment simply based on age. Harassment regarding someone’s age is also against the law. Therefore, employers must take steps to reasonably prevent harassment or discrimination surrounding age in the workplace. Failure to do so can result in a discrimination claim against the employer, as well as legal responsibility for damages.
Examples of Age Discrimination in the workplace
Although employees might have different experiences in the workplace, these experiences might all fall under what we consider to be age discrimination. Common examples of workplace age discrimination in California and across the United States include:
- Being the target of comments, insults, or jokes
- Noticing patterns of the employer only hiring young people
- Getting turned down or overlooked for promotions (even though you are qualified)
- Being assigned to tedious tasks (and giving younger workers more important responsibilities)
- Facing unwarranted disciplinary actions (that do not match the discipline faced by younger employees)
- Having a position eliminated (only to be replaced by a similar position given to a younger employee)
Pursuing a workplace Age Discrimination Claim
Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding a situation alleged to involve workplace age discrimination, a complaint may need to be filed with either a state or federal administrative agency. The reality is that the administrative process can prove to be surprisingly challenging. As a consequence, if you believe you are the victim of workplace age discrimination, you best protect your crucial legal interests by retaining the services of an experienced attorney, like a member of the legal team at Workers’ Advocate Law Group.
Bear in mind that you must file an administrative workplace age discrimination complaint within a specific period of time. That deadline can be a matter of a couple of months from the date of the alleged discriminatory act. An experienced age discrimination lawyer is in the best position to ensure that any claim or complaint is filed in a timely manner.
Filing an Age Discrimination Lawsuit
Depending on how a complaint with a governmental administrative agency is resolved, you may need to file a lawsuit in your quest to obtain justice in an age discrimination case. An example of when the time to file a lawsuit has arrived is if you receive what is known as a Right to Sue Letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC.
It is equally unlawful for an employer to discriminate against someone on the basis of age by reason of a false belief that such person is within the age of 40 years and older. If you have suffered wrongful, negative treatment simply because of your age, your rights may have been violated.
An age discrimination lawsuit can prove to be highly complicated litigation. For this reason, pursuing this type of lawsuit without a lawyer is not recommended. If you want to understand how or whether to sue for discrimination, speak to an attorney at our firm right away. Workers’ Advocate Law Group civil rights, sexual assault/harassment and discrimination practice attorneys can help you determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit and inform you of relevant time limitations for filing a potential claim.
Count on an experienced lawyer from Workers’ Advocate Law Group who has extensive experience in fighting for their clients’ employment rights. You can contact our firm online to schedule your free consultation in English or Spanish today. Our team will be more than happy to assist you accordingly.