Who is protected?
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers age 40 and above due to their age. This law only applies to companies with 20 or more workers. However, California law broadens age-related protections for Orange County workers. Under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers with five or more employees are also prohibited from discriminating against workers age 40 and older because of their age.
It should be noted that workers younger than 40 are not covered by the ADEA. The law also leaves out people employed in “high policymaking positions” with pensions worth at least $44,000 and actors and models who do not meet the age requirements for specific roles. In addition, police officers, firefighters, tenured university faculty and some federal workers may have signed employment contracts that allow their employers to show age-related bias under certain circumstances.
Employees who are unsure if they are protected by state or federal age discrimination laws could learn more by contacting an age discrimination lawyer.
Age discrimination statistics
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age discrimination claims have been steadily rising over the last two decades. In 1997, the agency received 15,785 age discrimination claims. In 2016, that number climbed to 20,857. Meanwhile, a recent study by the AARP found that 64 percent of workers said they have seen or personally experienced age-related discrimination. Of those, 94 percent said they believe such bias is somewhat or very common.
One reason for the rise in age discrimination cases is that the American workforce is aging. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 20 percent of U.S. workers are age 55 or older. Another reason for the increase is that many employers believe they can get away with age-related discrimination by using new, less apparent tactics. For example, some online job applications use drop-down menus with date options that only go back to the 1980s, meaning that older workers are automatically screened out. Some job postings also use wording like “seeking digital natives,” which means they are seeking younger applicants who grew up using computers. Employees who have been victimized by such actions may benefit by contacting an age discrimination attorney about their legal options.
Do I need to hire an age discrimination lawyer?
Age discrimination cases can be difficult to prove. While some incidents are blatant, most Orange County employers are subtle and attempt to cover their tracks. However, an age discrimination attorney could help a victim uncover an employer’s hidden actions and file a claim with the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If one of these agencies grant a victim the “right to sue,” he or she could pursue an age discrimination lawsuit in court.
Damages sought in an employment discrimination case may include:
- Back pay
- Higher income from a promotion or raise
- Bonus payments
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering