What are some examples of age discrimination at work?
Under California law and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers with at least five employees cannot discriminate based on a worker’s age. Some exceptions may apply if, for example, forced retirement is necessary for safety. Airline pilots are not allowed to work past the age of 65. However, these exceptions are rare. If your employer says you are too old for your job, call an employment lawyer for advice.
For the vast majority of employees, an employer cannot take a harmful or “adverse” action against the employee because of their age. Any of these actions could be legal discrimination if done because of an employee’s age:
- Termination, including forced retirement
- Refusal to hire
- Failure to promote
- Unequal Pay
- Denial of any other rights or benefits of employment
Under California law, employers also cannot permit a workplace where employees frequently harass each other because of age, or let supervisors make negative comments about older workers. Employees who experience severe and frequent age-related abuse may have a strong age discrimination lawsuit.
Of course, this does not mean the law does not allow employers to terminate or demote older employees. It just means that they cannot be terminated because of their age.
Employers usually will not admit to firing an employee because they are over 40 years old. The employer may tell you that you are being let go for another reason, such as bad performance or a layoff. If this happens, the question becomes whether the employer’s excuse is false. If you have a good performance history and are suddenly written-up and fired for no good reason, then a judge or jury could decide the employer’s reason was false pretext. However, it is also important for your case to have some evidence connecting the termination to age, such as an age-related comment, or a pattern of letting older employees go.
If an employee can establish that their employer discriminated against them because of age, they may be able to recover damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages. Employees who can show wrongful termination on basis of age, can also recover lost wages, and wages they will lose in future.