Category: Age Discrimination

Earlier this month the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with an aggrieved 58-year-old employee who claimed that he had been fired from his job as a Manhattan Beach garbageman – a position he had held for 32 years – because of his age. Gilberto Santillan filed a lawsuit against his employer, USA Waste of California, Inc. in 2011, shortly after he was removed from his long-tenured post. In the lawsuit, Santillan claimed that he was one of five employees USA Waste had fired or suspended when new management was deployed. The company argued that Santillan was let go for performance-related issues.

In an effort to help the former garbageman regain his position, the residents who Santillan had served came out in droves to support his case. They showered the former garbageman with compliments and recommendations, and highlighted instances of when he went above and beyond his job duties. They also pointed out that the Manhattan Beach City Council had been urged to keep USA Waste’s contract because of Santillan himself. The company agreed to rehire Santillan if he could pass a drug test, physical exam, and criminal background check. When Santillan passed the required regiment of testing USA Waste still refused to rehire him, this time citing a failure to produce paperwork they deemed to be necessary in the process of hiring its employees.

Santillan brought the claim to the district court, which found that he failed to provide evidence of his claim of age discrimination. On appeal, however, the 9th Circuit panel found that – given the evidence and outcry of the community – there was sufficient evidence to support a claim of age discrimination. In overturning the district court the 9th Circuit explained that “an employer’s incorrect view of the law is not a legitimate reason for firing an employee.”

This decision highlights the importance of federal and state age discrimination laws. Without legal safeguards to prevent employer discrimination on the basis of age Santillan would be without a job and without recourse for his improper firing. While the decision does not reinstate Santillan, it is a victory for the popular garbageman. He can now attempt to recover damages through an age discrimination lawsuit in court.

What Laws Protect Against Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by both Federal and California state law

Federal Law. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees who are age 40 or older. There is no upper limit on the age of an employee who is protected under the ADEA.  Under the Act, employers may not discriminate on the basis of age against any individual with respect to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.” Employers with 20 or more employees are subject to the Act and liable for breaching its terms.

California State Law. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the state’s counterpart to the ADEA. Under FEHA, employers with 5 or more employees are prohibited from engaging in discriminatory workplace or hiring practices on the basis of age. 

A successful claim for age discrimination under the FEHA will require the plaintiff to prove three elements. First, they must show that they are 40 years or older. Second, they must show that they were adversely affected by an action of their employer. Finally, they must prove that the adverse employer action was based on the age of the employee. In the case above, the 9th Circuit believed that Santillan had sufficient evidence to support these elements.

Experienced California Age Discrimination Attorneys

If you are 40 years of age or older and have been adversely affected by an employer due to your age you should contact an experienced California age discrimination attorney to learn about your legal rights and options. Age discrimination can manifest in a number of different ways, including firing, demotion, pay cuts, reduction in hours, alterations in job assignments, and more. A skilled California age discrimination attorney can help you file a claim for damages against your employer. Damages the attorneys at the Briski Law Firm have successfully recovered damages in age discrimination lawsuits include:

  • Lost benefits;
  • Back pay;
  • Loss of future wages;
  • Emotional distress; and
  • Liquidated damages. 

Contact us today for a free consultation to learn about how our California age discrimination attorneys may be able to help you recover damages from your employer.