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What is California law on age discrimination?

The retirement age has increased over the years. Some work longer to establish the financial stability necessary for the lifestyle they desire once they retire. Others want to continue working for the physical, emotional and intellectual benefits it offers. Regardless of your reason for staying in the workforce longer, age discrimination can make it difficult for you to achieve your goal. It is important that you know what age discrimination is and how to recognize it so you can take action if it happens to you.

What is age discrimination?

Race, religion and gender are not the only protected categories in the workplace. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, an employer cannot discriminate against those over 40, whether they are job applicants or current employees. Age cannot be a factor in the following:

  • The hiring and training process
  • Laying off an employee
  • The pay, job assignments or fringe benefits an employee receives
  • Who qualifies for promotions

Age discrimination includes harassment from supervisors, colleagues and clients. The law is also relevant to employment agencies and labor organizations.

How does California law differ from federal law?

The ADEA only applies to businesses of 20 employees or more. California has its own Fair Employment and Housing Act that broadens the scope to businesses of five employees or more. It also prohibits harassment regardless of company size and encompasses not only employees but also applicants, interns, volunteers and contractors. Additionally, a 2016 amendment requires employers to have written policies that outline in detail how they will prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation. They must share the policies with all employees.

What are signs of age discrimination?

If you notice any of these signs begin to show as you grow older, you may be experiencing age discrimination.

  • Your employer rewards younger, less-experienced employees with promotions and work opportunities instead of you, despite your high performance and expertise.
  • You receive a demotion.
  • Your career development is no longer important to your superiors.
  • You lose your job for no apparent reason.
  • Those you work with constantly harass you about your age in such a way that creates a hostile work environment.

Note that an employer favoring an older employee is not discrimination, including when the younger one is also 40 years old or above.

If you find yourself facing age discrimination at your workplace, speak to a lawyer with experience in employment discrimination. An attorney can determine if you have a case and what steps you need to take to address the situation. The law also protects you against employer retaliation, so there is no need to fear seeking legal assistance.

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