Protection Against Age Discrimination
Dread turning 40? Don’t. It has its perks, one of which is legal protection from wrongful termination or other adverse employment actions based on your age.
People over 40 are protected by the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Under these laws, employers cannot hire, promote, pay, terminate, or deny opportunities to an employee over the age of 40 on the basis of age. These laws apply to employers with five or more employees under FEHA and twenty under ADEA.
As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more people are crossing into territory where they are vulnerable to discrimination. Some employers may favor younger employees, and age discrimination is becoming more common.
What is Age Discrimination?
It can be tricky to prove that you were terminated or discriminated against because of your age. Your employer may point to other issues to justify the action, and you have the burden of demonstrating that aside from your age, the employer did not have sufficient cause to act.
Here’s what you will need to show to make a case for age discrimination:
- You were at least 40 when the action occurred
- You were performing the job satisfactorily
- You were subjected to an adverse action (terminated, demoted, denied employment, etc.)
- You were replaced by a significantly younger person with equal or inferior qualifications
And just because you were replaced by a younger person who is also over 40 doesn’t mean you weren’t the victim of age discrimination.
Don’t be fooled by flattery if a prospective employer claims you are “overqualified” for a position when there is no criteria in place to define what overqualified actually means. If you are over 40, this might be a veiled attempt at age discrimination.
What are the Remedies?
If the court finds that you were the victim of age discrimination, your compensation may include:
- All lost wages, including front and back pay
- Loss of benefits
- Profit sharing
- Vacation and sick leave
- Attorney’s fees and costs
Filing a Claim
If an employee believes this type of discrimination has occurred and reports it, it is illegal for the employer to retaliate against the employee.
Before you can bring a claim for age discrimination, you have to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
You have a limited timeframe within which to file a claim, so don’t delay in contacting an attorney if you believe you have been the victim of age discrimination.
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