If you’re like many people, you’ve heard of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA – but what does it mean to you?
What is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?
- Terms, conditions or privileges of employment
This federal law was created in response to “arbitrary age limits” that were often used to make employment decisions – and the law even notes that older workers were disproportionately affected by those limits.
Additionally, ADEA protects people from workplace harassment due to age. Harassment can include things like offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s age, asking when a person is going to retire or even saying that a person is incapable of performing his or her job due to age. The law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing – but it does prohibit activities that are so frequent or severe that they create a hostile or offensive work environment, or activities that result in an adverse employment decision.
What Are Adverse Employment Decisions?
Adverse employment decisions related to age discrimination can include:
- Failure to promote
- Undesirable reassignment
- Denial of benefits
- Denial of leave requests
It’s important to note that you can only take legal action against your employer if it has done any of these things to you for a discriminatory reason. In this post, we’re talking about age discrimination – but there are other types of discrimination as well, such as:
- Disability discrimination
- National origin discrimination
- Pregnancy discrimination
- Race or color discrimination
- Religious discrimination
- Sex discrimination
Which Employers Are Subject to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?
Any organization employing 20 or more workers is subject to ADEA.
Although the law doesn’t protect people under the age of 40, there is a California law that provides workers with more broad protections.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act: A Law Providing More Protections Than ADEA Does
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, protects workers aged 40 and over, just like ADEA does – but FEHA applies to organizations with at least five employees.
Can Age Be a Determining Factor in Hiring or Working in California?
In some cases, it’s okay for employers to use age as a determining factor in hiring and employment decisions. For example, it’s totally fine for a talent agency to require models to be between 6 months and 12 months of age (or any other figure) if the model will be shooting a commercial for an infants’ car seat manufacturer. It would be ridiculous for a 50-year-old adult to sit in an infant’s car seat (not to mention the logistical issues they’d have) to sell a car seat designed for babies. Exceptions like these are considered bona fide occupational qualifications – and that means it’s reasonable for the employer to look for and work with employees of a certain age.
On the other side of the coin, it’s not legal for an employer to want to hire 19-year-olds because “they’re better with computers” or 24-year-olds because “they’ll work for less money.” It’s illegal for an employer to hire only people under 30 because “they’re more attractive” or “they know how to talk to younger customers,” too.
Examples of Age Discrimination in California Workplaces
Age discrimination can take many forms, so check out these examples:
- An employer fires an older worker because it will soon be required to pay that person retirement benefits.
- A manager passes over a 41-year-old applicant because the employer wants a younger-looking person to perform a customer-facing job.
- An employer passes over a 50-year-old worker for promotion due to his or her age.
- A work culture that pokes fun of people who are “over the hill” or makes it seem acceptable to make jokes or derogatory statements about a person’s age.
Have You Experienced Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
If you think you’ve been discriminated against because of your age, we may be able to help you – and you may have legal recourse against your employer. Call our office for a free consultation. We’re at 818-230-8380. If it’s easier, you can fill out the contact form below instead; we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.