Did you know that employees in California are protected against age discrimination?

What does the law say about age discrimination?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) is part of a federal statutory scheme protecting employees against discrimination in the workplace. Congress passed the ADEA to address the practice of employment discrimination against older workers, and especially to redress the difficulty such workers faced in obtaining new employment after being displaced from their jobs.

The elements of a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADEA are met with a showing that the employee (1) was age 40 or over; (2) was qualified for the position or performed the job satisfactorily; (3) suffered an adverse employment action (was not hired/promoted or was discharged/disciplined); and (4) was replaced by a sufficiently younger worker with equal or inferior qualifications to permit an inference of age discrimination.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) similarly prohibits employment discrimination based on a variety of grounds including age. The elements of a prima facie case of discrimination under the FEHA are met with a showing that the employee: (1) at the time of the adverse action he or she was 40 years of age or older, (2) an adverse employment action was taken against the employee, (3) at the time of the adverse action the employee was satisfactorily performing his or her job and (4) the employee was replaced in his position by a significantly younger person (except where a RIF is involved).

Therefore, the elements of an age discrimination claim are very similar regardless of whether it is a federal claim or a state law claim.

Examples of age discrimination

Age discrimination in the workplace refers to treating an individual unfairly or unfavorably based on their age. Here are some detailed examples:

  1. Hiring Practices: Age discrimination can occur during the recruitment process when an employer favors younger candidates over older ones, even if they possess similar qualifications and experience.
  2. Promotions and Advancements: Denying older employees opportunities for promotion or advancement based on their age, rather than considering their skills, performance, and experience, is a form of age discrimination.
  3. Layoffs and Termination: If an employer makes decisions about layoffs or termination based primarily on age, such as targeting older employees for downsizing or early retirement, it constitutes age discrimination.
  4. Harassment and Hostile Work Environment: Age-related jokes, offensive remarks, derogatory comments, or creating a hostile work environment based on an employee’s age are all forms of age discrimination.
  5. Unequal Pay and Benefits: Paying older workers less than their younger counterparts for doing the same job or providing fewer benefits due to their age is considered age discrimination.
  6. Training and Development Opportunities: Denying older employees access to training programs, professional development opportunities, or mentorship solely because of their age is discriminatory.
  7. Exclusion from Decision-Making: Marginalizing older employees and excluding them from important meetings, decision-making processes, or team activities based on their age is a form of age discrimination.
  8. Stereotyping and Prejudice: Making assumptions about an employee’s abilities, productivity, or work ethic solely based on their age is discriminatory. For example, assuming that older workers are less adaptable or technologically proficient.
  9. Forced Retirement: Forcing an employee to retire at a certain age, even if they are still capable and willing to work, is a clear example of age discrimination.
  10. Unequal Access to Benefits and Perks: Denying older employees access to company benefits, such as health insurance or retirement plans, or offering reduced benefits based on age is discriminatory.

Employers need to create a fair and inclusive work environment, free from age discrimination, where all employees have equal opportunities for growth and success.

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