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Wrongfully terminated? Age discrimination law may have the answer

Most of us are familiar with the idea of discrimination in the workplace based on gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, but did you know that there is a far more insidious form of discrimination at play in today's economy? More and more workers are suffering wrongful termination not because of their appearance, but because of their age. Luckily, federal legislation protects California employees from this type of unfair discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits age discrimination against those who are older than 40 years old. This important piece of legislation protects older workers from being cruelly phased out of the workforce in favor of younger, cheaper labor.

You might think that this is a new piece of legislation, but the ADEA actually dates back to 1967, when civil rights were an integral part of the national conscience. The Act was created to prevent unfair displacement of older workers, largely because long-term employment among the older age groups was becoming a significant problem at that time. Furthermore, employers in that era were setting arbitrary age limits for specific job functions that were not necessarily dependent upon age.

ADEA covers employees who are currently working, but it also protects those older Californians who are looking for work. It is illegal to avoid hiring an older worker strictly on the basis of age. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forbids discrimination with regards to compensation, benefits or privileges of employment on the basis of an applicant's age. Furthermore, the ADEA prohibits labor unions from expelling members based on their age.

The ADEA is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that has helped older Americans maintain their rightful place at work. Violators still exist, however, and scores of Californians suffer wrongful termination every year because of their seniority. Victims of this type of illegal practice may be able to recover damages, or even return to their jobs, depending on the nature of the violation.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Age Discrimination," accessed Aug. 11, 2015

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