Age Discrimination Laws in California - What You Should Know
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Everything You Should Know About Age Discrimination Laws in California

Everything You Should Know About Age Discrimination Laws in California

Updated: Jan 22, 2024

Workers living or employed in California benefit from legal protections against many forms of employment discrimination. In addition to race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, the civil rights laws prevent your employer from discriminating against you due to your age.

If you feel you have been mistreated in the workplace because of your age, you can take action to protect your rights and receive compensation. Learn more about what qualifies as age discrimination at work and what steps to take in California to protect your rights.

What is Age Discrimination in the Workplace?

Age discrimination occurs when an employer or managerial staff treats employees and job applicants unfavorably based on age. This behavior can be perpetrated against any age group but is often rooted in biases, misconceptions, and harmful stereotypes against older people.

Common examples include wrongful assumptions about an older worker’s health, adaptability, productivity, and work flexibility. Older workers are also often assumed to be costlier, leading some employers to discriminate against them in favor of younger, less experienced staff.

According to the California Civil Rights Department (CRD), California workers aged 40 and over benefit from legal protections against age discrimination. This protection applies to the same extent as other forms of discrimination, such as race, religion, and disability, under CA GOV 12940.

What Are the Different Types of Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination manifests in many ways and can target either current employees or job applicants. Common types include:

  • Direct discrimination. When employers or managers treat an employee or applicant less favorably due to their age. This could mean telling an employee they are too old for a promotion or to carry out a certain task.
  • Indirect discrimination. When a workplace policy, job application requirements, internal rules, general practices, or the company culture indirectly disadvantages older workers. For instance, a company requires all employees to be proficient in digital tools and technology but does not offer training. This could disadvantage older workers who may not have experience with these platforms.
  • Harassment. When other employees, managers, or owners create an unfavorable or hostile environment for older workers through their behavior. Examples include intimidation, disparaging or degrading comments, humiliation, and age-based, offensive humor.
  • Retaliation. Retaliatory behavior refers to unfair treatment toward employees who stand up for themselves and file an age discrimination complaint. It can also apply if the unfair behavior is aimed at other employees supporting the older worker filing a complaint.

What Are Examples of Age Discrimination?

Common age discrimination scenarios occur during the job application stage and once you’ve been hired. Employers may engage in age discrimination in the following ways:

  • Deciding not to hire an applicant because they are deemed “too old”
  • Passing up on an older applicant in favor of a younger one
  • Deliberately designing job application requirements to make it more difficult or impossible for older applicants to satisfy them
  • Promoting younger workers more often than equally deserving older workers
  • Not providing older workers with the same training opportunities as their younger colleagues
  • Assigning less desirable, less important, or more tedious tasks to older workers
  • Evaluating older employees more harshly during a performance evaluation
  • Saying disparaging or hostile age-related comments as part of workplace culture or in the presence of older employees

What Are the Ways to Prove Discrimination in California?

If you were discriminated against based on your age in California, you may be able to file a complaint and report your employer to the relevant authorities. To do so, you will need to collect sufficient evidence and documentation to support your claim.

  • Documentation proving your age. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees against age discrimination if they are aged 40 or older. Because age is central to your claim, you must prove your age at the time of the incident. You can use identification like your driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.
  • Verbal or written statements. Collect any written evidence of general age bias and discriminatory or disparaging behavior towards you. This can include recorded verbal statements and copies of email conversations, meeting notes, company policies, job descriptions, and other documents.
  • Employment records. Get copies of your employment history, including any promotions, demotions, and disciplinary actions. If you were treated unfairly during a performance evaluation, you may need copies of your performance reviews or written evaluations.
  • Statistical evidence. A statistical analysis can reveal age biases and other disparities if you have access to the company’s overall hiring, promotion, demotion, termination, and disciplinary records.
  • Witness testimonies. Gather statements from colleagues or supervisors who have observed or experienced similar discrimination. They can help you establish comparisons of treatment and prove older employees are treated differently.

How Do I File an Age Discrimination Complaint in California?

After collecting evidence, you can file a complaint to the relevant authorities. Follow these steps to report your employer for discriminatory activity:

  • Contact the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). Initiate your claim with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). You can do this online or by completing an intake form and mailing it to the appropriate address. When filing with the CRD for age discrimination, you have three years following the incident to file a complaint.
  • Submit documentation and evidence. The CRD will investigate your claim, including reviewing all relevant evidence. When filing your claim, submit all details, such as your employer’s name and contact information, documents proving the discrimination, and names of any witnesses.
  • Follow CRD instructions. After the investigation, the CRD will determine if an employment rights violation occurred. If so, you will typically work with a dispute resolution service to come to a compensation agreement with your employer. However, the CRD may also file a lawsuit on your behalf.
  • Speak with an attorney. During the complaint process, you may work with an employment rights attorney to protect your rights and help with your case. A lawyer can assist in collecting evidence, filing a well-supported claim, and representing you in negotiations, whether in mediation or court, to achieve a fair resolution for your case.

Seek Legal Representation Against Discrimination in California Today

While California laws offer the same level of protection against age discrimination as they do against biases related to race, gender, or religion, demonstrating an age discrimination case can be a complicated and time-consuming endeavor.

For the highest likelihood of success, it’s advisable to consult a workplace discrimination attorney before filing a complaint. They can assist in collecting essential evidence, identifying patterns of age bias, and making sure that your complaint is taken seriously by the relevant authorities.

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