Protections Under The ADEA Are Different Than Other Anti-Discrimination Laws
If you are an older worker, you might have seen yourself passed over for promotion in favor of younger workers or found it more difficult to find a new job if you were laid off from your old one. This might have happened if you were less qualified than who was selected. But what happens if you were clearly the most qualified candidate? This could be a sign that your employer or prospective employer discriminated against you based on your age. This is illegal under federal and California laws, but is a huge problem in our country that favors the young over older workers. According to the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 20,144 complaints—22.5 percent of all the complaints filed—were made by employees for age discrimination in 2015.
How the ADEA Protects Against Age Discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from using age as the basis of decisions in all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. It applies in the following situations:
- The employee is 40 years old or older.
- The employer has 20 or more employees.
It is not illegal to take adverse actions against an older employee as long as the decision is based on factors other than age. However, the following actions would be a violation of the ADEA:
- Stating an age preference – Such as looking for recent graduates in job postings. However, it is not illegal to state a preference for employees 40 years old or older.
- Asking age-related questions in a job interview is not per se illegal, but this can suggest that the employer’s hiring decision is illegally based on age.
- If an employee is denied training for a job due to his age, this would violate the ADEA.
- If an employer fails to hire a person based on his age, the employer would be engaging in a prohibited act.
- An employer cannot terminate a worker because he is older. However, the employee would need to show that his age was the cause of the decision, not just a motivating factor. This is different than other civil rights laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which only requires a showing that gender, race, or another protected factor was a motivation for an employer’s decision.
- Employers cannot deprive older workers of their benefits or provide them with fewer benefits than others due to their age.
- An employer is prohibited from harassing a worker due to his age, such as making offensive remarks or jokes. The employee must prove that the harassment was so pervasive or serious that it created a hostile work environment or resulted in adverse actions against him.
- An employer also cannot retaliate against a worker for making a complaint under ADEA, participating in an age discrimination hearing or proceeding, or cooperating with an EEOC investigation.
What Compensation Could You Be Entitled to Under the ADEA?
A victim of age discrimination is entitled remedies under the ADEA that are similar to those under Title VII with a few major differences. If you were discriminated against, you could be entitled to the following relief:
- Back pay. This includes your wages, benefits, and bonus you would have earned from the date of the discriminatory action until your settlement or trial date.
- Front pay. This is the money you would be entitled to compensate you for the future pay you will lose because of the discrimination of your employer.
- Injunctive relief. If you can show your employer intentionally discriminated against you due to your age, you can ask the judge to order your employer to take actions, such as reinstating you to your former position if you were terminated or giving you the promotion you were denied.
- Attorney’s fees. Your employer would be responsible for paying your reasonable attorney’s fees if you prove that you were the victim of age discrimination.
- Liquidated damages. Unlike Title VII, a victim of age discrimination is not entitled to compensatory damages for the pain and suffering he suffered or punitive damages to punish the employer. However, if the employee can show a willful violation of the ADEA, he could be entitled to liquidated damages equal to the amount of his back pay award.
Your Rights Under California Law
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also prohibits employers in California from discriminating against you based on your age. It provides you with additional protections that you do not have under the ADEA. These include the following:
- The law covers employers who have five employees or more.
- The law applies to any harassment regardless of the number of employees.
- A victim can receive compensation for his pain and suffering, and there is no cap on the amount of these damages.
Contact Our Orange County Office Today
If you believe you were discriminated against at work based on your age, your first step should be to contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney who can explain your legal options to you. Call the firm directly at 949-679-9909 or toll-free at 877-304-7066 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.