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State and federal laws protect older workers from discrimination

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2021 | Age Discrimination

Your many years of experience in your chosen field of work have given you in-depth knowledge about your job. You may have seen it all and know just what to do in any given situation. While this is certainly an asset, not all employers think so and some will fire older workers under the guise of “downsizing” when really the termination is nothing more than age discrimination in the workplace.

Age discrimination can be a huge blow to your self-esteem and can be extremely humiliating. You may feel frightened about how you are going to provide for your family. It is important that those in such situations have a basic understanding of federal and California law on age discrimination.

Federal law on age discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency that oversees age discrimination in the workplace. The federal law that addresses age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Under the ADEA it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against workers age 40 and up in any part of the employment process, including hiring, termination, pay, work assignments, promotions, training, benefits and any other term or condition associated with the job.

Under the ADEA it is also illegal to harass a worker age 40 or older based on their age. For example, co-workers, supervisors or workers in other departments cannot make offensive or derogatory statements to a person based on that person’s age. While simple teasing, offhand remarks or an isolated incident that is not too serious do not fall under the ADEA, once the harassment becomes so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or ends in an adverse employment decision, then it constitutes illegal harassment. Employers also cannot make policies that have a negative effect on workers age 40 and above that are not based on a reasonable factor other than the worker’s age, even if the policies apply to everyone in the workplace.

California law on age discrimination

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is the agency in California that oversees age discrimination in the workplace. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) employers who have five or more employees cannot discriminate against job applicants and workers age 40 or older based on their age. This includes discrimination in advertising, applications, interviews, hiring, transferring promoting and firing. The FEHA also applies to discrimination in working conditions, including pay and participation in training programs or unions. The FEHA applies to public and private employers, unions and employment agencies.

Learn more about age discrimination

If you are the subject of age discrimination it can be a demeaning and stressful experience. You just want to work to support your family, but your workplace has become intolerable, or you may even have been let go based on your age. Fortunately, help is available in such situations. This post is for educational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Our firm’s webpage on age discrimination may be a good starting point for those who want to learn more about this topic.


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