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Rand L. Stephens & Richard Koss

How Older Employees Can File Age Discrimination Claims

Attentiveness. Mature gray-haired elegant woman in glasses concentrated looking at laptop touching chin sitting at table indoors

Age discrimination is just as insidious and pervasive as other forms of workplace discrimination in California and nationwide. But age discrimination can be more difficult to identify, and many California employees do not even know that they have rights once they reach a certain age. Continue reading to learn about age discrimination in the workplace and how affected employees can protect their rights. Call a dedicated California age discrimination lawyer with any questions or for help with an employment-related matter.

What Constitutes Age Discrimination?

Federal and California laws both prohibit age discrimination. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit discrimination against employees aged 40 and older. ADEA applies to employers with at least 20 employees, while FEHA applies to employers with at least five employees (including out-of-state employees as well as employees on paid or unpaid leave). California workers are protected by both laws.

Age discrimination can take many forms. Any adverse action taken against an employee because of their advanced age can constitute discrimination. Adverse employment actions may include:

  • Termination
  • Refusal to hire
  • Demotion
  • Refusal to promote
  • Reduction in pay or bonus
  • Denial of benefits
  • Denial of equal pay as compared to younger, similarly situated employees
  • Forced to quit
  • Transfer to a less desirable position or location
  • Denial of medical leave
  • Mandatory retirement age (with certain exceptions)

It might not be readily apparent that an employer is treating older employees differently. Certain conduct may provide evidence that discrimination is at play, such as:

  • Jokes or comments about an employee’s age
  • Layoffs targeting more “senior” employees
  • Layoffs of “higher salaried” employees that disproportionately affect older workers
  • Promoting a “young” culture
  • Forced retirement
  • Retaliation against an employee for reporting age discrimination or other workplace misconduct

What Can I Do if I’m Subjected to Age Discrimination?

If you experience age discrimination in the workplace, the first step is typically to exhaust internal channels. Report the conduct, preferably in writing, to a supervisor and/or human resources. If your employer fails to take proper corrective action, or if you’ve been wrongfully terminated based on your age, you can take your complaints external.

You can file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Typically, courts require aggrieved employees to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit against their employer. California law offers broader protection for employees, so employees experiencing discrimination may be better served going through the DFEH and California courts rather than pursuing federal remedies.

Your age discrimination lawyer can walk you through the process of filing a complaint with the DFEH, ensuring you build the strongest case and protect all your rights and remedies. Once the DFEH process has been exhausted, your lawyer can represent you in an age discrimination lawsuit against your employer.

If you are a San Francisco employee or employer in need of advice or representation concerning equal pay violations, retaliation, whistleblower protections, workplace discrimination, or other California labor law issues, contact the Richard Koss Bay Area employment law attorneys at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula, or 925-757-1700 in the East Bay.

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