California laws provide important protections for employees and job applicants over 40 years of age. Age discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant over the age of 40 receives less favorable treatment because of age. Employees are often not aware that age was a factor in their mistreatment. Often, we get calls from employees passed over for training or promotional opportunities in favor of younger employees. Know that, in most cases, employers in California are prohibited by law from engaging in age discrimination.
Employees in California are protected against age discrimination by two main sets of laws:
- The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); and
- California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Both the ADEA and FEHA provide protection to employees in California, and apply to employers, however, sometimes they differ in scope. For example, the ADEA covers employers who have at least 20 employees. On the other hand, the FEHA applies to employers with a minimum of 5 employees. In general, the FEHA is more protective of employees.
Now, how can age discrimination be proven? The following factors must be shown by an employee:
- The employer was an entity covered by applicable age discrimination laws (FEHA and/or ADEA);
- The employee or job applicant was 40 years or older;
- The employee or job applicant was adversely affected by an employment action; and
- The employer took that action because of the employee's age.
Age discrimination includes treating individuals differently, due to age, with respect to their compensation, work conditions and job assignments. For example, an employee older than 40 is turned down from a promotion because the company wanted to hire someone younger from outside the company. Another example might be where a company layoff occurs, but only older individuals are leg go. Or, an employee older than 40 is constantly harassed by their supervisors and coworkers about their age in such a way that creates a hostile work environment.
If you believe you have been a victim of age discrimination at work, it is important to speak with an attorney who specializes in this area of law.