In California, it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of your age if you’re over the age of 40 – both federal and state laws prohibit this type of discrimination. But unfortunately, it still happens. So how can you prove age discrimination at work? This guide explains.
How Do You Prove Age Discrimination at Work?
Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, at the federal level. It’s also prohibited by the Fair Employment and Housing Act, a California law designed to protect workers over 40 years of age.
The ADEA protects workers who work for employers that have 20 or more employees, while FEHA protects those who work for employers that have five or more employees. As you can see, California law provides more protection for workers than federal law does – and for that reason, employers in the state are required to follow the California law rather than the federal one.
Employers may not discriminate against a person due to age (over 40) when it comes to:
- Job assignments
- Any other term or condition of employment
But proving age discrimination can be difficult.
Related: ADEA explained
Guide to Proving Age Discrimination at Work
If you suspect your employer – or an employer that you wanted to work for – discriminated against you due to your age, you may have legal recourse. However, you’ll have to show that the employer engaged in unlawful discrimination. Many people choose to work with an age discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles who understands both California and federal law.
Generally, you need some type of evidence to prove that an employer discriminated against you due to your age. You may have witness accounts, physical evidence (such as documentation) and your own statements to help your lawyer prove your case. You must:
- Be age 40 or older
- Show that you were adversely affected by an employment action
- Show that your employer (or a prospective employer) took the action it took because of your age
Here’s how it works: You make an age discrimination claim and the employer has a chance to show that it had a nondiscriminatory reason for taking the action. Then, you have a chance to show that the reason the employer gave isn’t true.
Let’s say you want to work as a server at a local restaurant. You’ve personally been a server for the past 10 years, and you’re very good at what you do – and you even have references to prove it. The manager declines to hire you without giving a reason. However, you’ve been to the restaurant before – and you know that every other server working there is under the age of 30. The restaurant has had a “Help Wanted: Servers” sign in the window for a month, and the next time you visit, you see that they’ve hired a new server – one who’s under the age of 30.
Did the employer deny you because of your age?
Possibly. In a case like this, you could ask the manager why they chose not to hire you. Although they don’t have to give you a reason, the reason they actually have for not hiring you cannot be your age (or any other discriminatory reason, such as your skin color, religion or national origin).
Here’s another example: You’re at work and keep being passed over for promotion, though younger people with less experience than you keep being promoted. Some of them are at higher levels than you are now, even though you have stellar performance reviews (and some of them don’t), and you have more experience and more education under your belt. You know that your company is trying to revitalize itself by focusing on younger employees with “fresh” ideas, but nobody has come out and told you that they’re not promoting you because of your age. However, your manager once asked you, “When are you going to retire and make room for some of these young people?”
Did your employer discriminate against you because of your age?
Possibly. You may choose to come right out and ask your supervisor why you’re not being promoted. Your supervisor cannot fail to promote you due to your age when promotions are available, you’re qualified, and other people are getting them. (The same is true with pay raises.)
If you suspect that your age is the reason behind an adverse employment decision, you should talk to an attorney.
Legitimate Business Reasons for Age Discrimination
It’s also important to note that some businesses have legitimate business reasons for doing things that appear to be discriminatory. If an employer has a legitimate reason for only hiring people of a certain age, and if the employer can prove that the reason is valid, it’s okay for them to refuse to hire people based on age. (One example would be a modeling agency that needs someone to model children’s clothing; it would be silly for them to have to hire a 45-year-old to model kids’ clothes, even if they fit.)
Did an Employer Discriminate Against You Because of Your Age?
If you suspect that an employer discriminated against you because of your age – or for any other reason – we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 now or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation with an LA workplace discrimination attorney. Our team will be happy to discuss your case, find out whether you’re the victim of age discrimination at work, and develop a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.