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Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

Age Discrimination


Age Discrimination in the Workplace

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits discrimination based on a variety of grounds, including age. If an employee in California has been demoted, denied a position, terminated, or treated unfairly because of his or her age, that may be the basis for an age discrimination lawsuit. In these cases, aggrieved employees may bring claims under FEHA or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), which prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of age – among other protected categories. Specifically, FEHA protects employees 40 years of age and older.

The Elements of an Age Discrimination Case

In FEHA and ADEA cases, the first thing employment lawyers look for is an adverse employment action against an employee because of their age. An adverse employment action can be a demotion, termination, or failure to hire. To qualify, discrimination attorneys generally look for:

  • At the time of the adverse action the employee was 40 years of age or older;
  • An adverse employment action was taken against the employee (e.g., termination, demotion, reduction in hours or pay, etc.); and
  • The employee had qualifications to carry out the essential functions of the employment irrespective of age.

If these factors apply to you, it is essential that you contact an age discrimination attorney right away.

Pretext in Workplace Age Discrimination Cases

When a company offers one or multiple reasons to justify its adverse employment actions against an employee, there is no presumption of discrimination. The employee must produce evidence that are sufficient to prove that the reason the employer gave was false. This is often referred to as “pretext” by age discrimination lawyers, and it is a crucial part of a successful case.

The employee typically establishes pretext by establishing the employer’s reason for termination were likely underpinned by discriminatory animus. To be successful, an employee can show a level of implausibility, weakness, inconsistency, and/or contradiction in the employer’s explanation or stated reason for termination.

Age Discrimination Examples

In some cases, what decision-makers say may be considered evidence of age discrimination. Direct evidence is that which demonstrates discriminatory intent.

Where there is no direct proof of age discrimination, an employee may still establish age discrimination claim by proving prima facie elements for an age discrimination case. For instance, if a 55-year-old manager is replaced by someone half their age, coupled with ageist comments made in the workplace, this helps establish the primary elements of an age discrimination lawsuit. The burden is then placed on the employer to offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the manager’s replacement. If the employer provides a legitimate reason, the 55-year-old manager may still have viable age discrimination claim if he can show that he did his duties and he was significantly more qualified than the younger worker. The damages for such claims can be substantial. For example, in Tetzschner v. Unitank Terminal Service, Co., a jury awarded $495,539 (total verdict of $1.2 million) in emotional distress damages to a tank superintendent fired as a result of age discrimination.

Settlements for Age Discrimination Cases

When considering the issues of damages and settlements, a plaintiff is entitled to reasonable compensation for all damages occurring because of the age discrimination.

The first type of damages to which a plaintiff is entitled is the net lost benefits and wages from the date of the employer’s adverse action to the date of the settlement or award. This is also known as “backpay.” Moreover, the court may also award “front pay” damages or reinstatement. Front pay compensates an employee for future damages and future wages that an employee is no longer able to collect as a result of their termination. Additionally, if the employer’s actions were willful or malicious, a plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages. Finally, an employer can be liable for an employee’s attorneys fees if the plaintiff is successful.

In a recent Fresno County case, a 61-year-old woman had alleged that her manager had required her to work two positions, gave her unfavorable evaluations, and was arbitrarily building a case to fire her. The woman correctly made a complaint of age discrimination to human resources. Not only did the company ignore her complaints, but they then terminated her in retaliation for her complaint and replaced her with a younger employee. The jury awarded the employee $1,680,300 in compensatory pain and suffering, past wages, and future wages.

Filing a Claim for Age Discrimination

To successfully sue an employer for age discrimination, an employee must first file a claim with a government entity. There are two options: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), a federal agency, or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”), which operates at the state level. Before filing a claim, it is best to discuss the case with one of our age discrimination lawyers in the Los Angeles area.

When an employee files a claim with DFEH or EEOC, a copy is sent to the other agency. This is referred to as cross-filing and it helps protect the workers’ rights under state and federal laws while avoiding duplicative cases. When filing claims, our employment lawyers ensure that the following information is included.

  • Employee’s name name and contact information.
  • An explanation of the type of discrimination that occurred.
  • The date of harm.
  • Any reporting to the employer.
  • Current status at the company and or the result of your complaints, if any
  • A timeline list of when the events happened, and
  • The number of employees in the company.

The Statute of Limitations on Age Discrimination Cases

Under FEHA, plaintiffs have only a short time to file discrimination charges with the DFEH or EEOC. In California, employees have one year from the date of the adverse employment action to file a claim or obtain a right to sue notice. The time limit is not tolled (paused) while plaintiffs attempt to resolve their claims of age discrimination via other methods, such as internal grievance procedures with their employer, negotiation, arbitration, or mediation.

Does a Worker Have a Discrimination Case Against an Employer Who Says They’re Overqualified for a Job?

The answer depends on the specifics of the situation. Employers are barred from not hiring experienced candidates because of an assumption that they’ll retire or find a new job soon. However, an employee would have to prove that his or her age was a substantial motivating factor for not being chosen instead of a different, legitimate reason. Age discrimination attorneys know how to analyze these situations and determine the validity of potential claims

Is it Legal for Employers to Ask Workers to Retire Early?

It is legal for companies to offer a voluntary early retirement option to senior employees. These offers typically require employees to waive their right to file discrimination claims against the company. An employer usually offers increased retirement benefits in return for the employee’s early departure. Every scenario is different, however, and each should be evaluated by a lawyer before any documents are signed.

Contact Us to Find Out How We Can Help

We work on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no attorney fees until we win and obtain compensation for your loss. We are available 24/7 – around the clock, so you can contact us any time and we will be available to help you through this difficult time. Call us at 1-800-247-9235 for a free, no-obligation consultation or email info@westcoasttriallawyers.com.



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