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California Workplace Age Discrimination

 Thirty-three million workers—20 percent of all workers in the U.S.—are above the age of 55. According to AARP, half the working population in the nation is 40 or older. The significance of these statistics is that nearly half of the workers in America’s private sector workforce are covered by the protections afforded in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. America’s workforce is older—and growing more slowly than in past years. Employers must be aware of what constitutes age discrimination such as:

  • Setting an arbitrary age limit for hiring an employee;
  • Setting an arbitrary age limit for offering a promotion or compensation to an employee;
  • Setting an arbitrary age for discharging an employee;
  • Altering working conditions or benefits based on age rather than actual job performance, and
  • Establishing or implementing policies and practices which put older employees or potential employees at a distinct disadvantage.

Of course some age discrimination is unintentional, while other instances of age discrimination are both willful and intentional. Many instances of age discrimination are based on nothing more than stereotypes about older workers.

In Silicon Valley, it’s a fact of life that older workers, when laid off or terminated, are competing against a new crop of 20-30 year olds just entering the workforce at lower salaries, and perceived as being more desirable than experienced workers.

Additional Statistics Regarding Age Discrimination in the Workplace

There are additional statistics regarding age discrimination in the United States including:

  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of workers say they have either been the recipient of age discrimination in the workplace or have witnessed age discrimination in the workplace directed at other employees.
  • More than 21,000 age discrimination complaints were filed before the EEOC in 2013. This is more than double the numbers from 1997.
  • It can take a person who is older than 55 as much as three months longer to find a job than a younger person.
  • Less than a third of older workers who are nearing retirement age say they have enough money to retire, and about 16 percent of those who retired say they were forced to return to work.
  • About one-fifth of American adults who are over the age of forty believe they have not gotten at least one job they applied for—and possibly more—because of their age.

Recognizing Age Discrimination

Age discrimination in the workplace can lead to a hostile working environment, not only for those being discriminated against but for others who will soon pass a specific age, such as 40 or 50. Age discrimination can be very subtle or more overt, however most employers are aware of the laws banning age discrimination so tend to be a bit more subtle in their discriminatory practices.

An employee who has always received stellar performance reviews may find nothing they do pleases the boss anymore. Quotas or work demands may begin to be more and more unreasonable. The older employee may no longer be invited to certain meetings, yet it is up to the worker to prove that all these actions are directly related to his or her age. Some more common signs that age discrimination is being practiced include:

  • Younger employees are obviously treated differently than older workers in the workplace;
  • Older employees may be the target of biased comments about age, such as an employer stating the company wants a “younger image;”
  • An older employee may be passed over for a well-deserved promotion, with the promotion being given to a younger—less qualified—employee;
  • Managers are obviously socializing only with the younger employees, then awarding those younger employees the choicest assignments, and
  • An older employee could receive disciplinary action for doing the same thing a younger employee did with no consequences attached.
  • Buzz words that suggest that an employer considers a worker as being too old including such blatant comments such as referring to a worker as: “the old man,” to more subtle indicators like not being keeping up with the “new” technology.

California Laws Which Protect Older Workers

Interestingly, it is not always a younger supervisor or boss who commits age discrimination in the workplace; it is just as likely to be an older boss.

No worker has to simply put up with age discrimination in the workplace. Workers in the state of California are protected from age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act which protects those individuals who are over the age of 40 from employment discrimination because of their age.

California Government Code Section 12940-12951 details the protections afforded California workers who experience age discrimination—or any other type of discrimination—in the workplace. An age discrimination case can be filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or the EEOC.

Have You Been the Victim of Age Discrimination in the Workplace?

If you believe you have been the victim of age discrimination in the workplace, it is imperative that you keep meticulous records of every incidence which exhibited age discrimination. Document each specific conversation and event, down to the names of the witnesses to the incident, dates, times and places. It is crucial that you have tangible proof that you were the victim of age discrimination or harassment.

The most common mistakes made by those who experience age discrimination or harassment include:

  • Failure to tell the person to stop;
  • Failure to properly document the harassment or age discrimination;
  • Failure to report the harassment or age discrimination;
  • Not following up to make sure the employer takes action to end the harassment or age discrimination;
  • Failing to obtain medical or psychological help when necessary;
  • Failing to realize age discrimination and harassment is illegal;
  • Believing an employer who says there is no case for age discrimination;
  • Not filing a claim within the allotted time, and
  • Not consulting an attorney.

If you have tried to resolve the issue with your supervisor or through Human Resources but the age discrimination has continued, it is time to speak to an experienced California employment attorney who regularly protects and litigates for California employees in the workplace.

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