How Do I Know if I was discriminated against because of my age? Can I sue my employer for age discrimination? Do I need an age discrimination attorney?
All too often employers discriminate against older professionals as they seek to cut spending by hiring younger, less qualified, employees for less pay and cheaper health benefits. Fortunately, in California, it is illegal for an employer to replace an employee who is over forty (40) years of age with a less qualified, younger employee. It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against you with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment because of your age.
Demonstrating illegal discrimination is challenging. A claimant can establish discriminatory motive through direct evidence. Direct evidence is evidence is evidence that independently proves that an adverse employment action was motivated by discriminatory animus without requiring the jury to draw from the circumstances inferences or presumptions. If a claimant successfully presents direct evidence of discrimination, then the traditional burden shifting paradigm will not apply.
In an age discrimination case, patently biased employment policies (See, e.g., Herr v. Nestle U.S.A., Inc., management distributed a company-wide “objectives” memo indicating that the company preferred “hiring, identifying, and developing young people to have, in the long term, enough resources for future management” positions) or age-related statements from employers that they sought someone younger, maybe in their 40s made by management have been found by California courts to constitute direct evidence of unlawful discrimination.
Overt forms of discrimination such as offensive age related remarks are not as common in the present day workplace as subtle, passive aggressive forms of discrimination that are just as harmful. This is because employers often attempt to hide their discriminatory conduct under the guise of legitimate business decisions such as company reorganizations and layoffs or false accusations of poor performance to avoid liability. Pay special attention to whether there are true, legitimate business reasons justifying your employer’s alleged “business decisions.”
Although employers rarely put a discriminatory reason in writing, discrimination may nonetheless be proven with circumstantial evidence. In the absence of direct evidence, circumstantial evidence asks the jury to draw from the circumstances a conclusion, inference, or presumption of intentional discrimination.
For example, circumstantial but persuasive evidence of age discrimination involves a situation where an employer implements a 10% layoff citing “lack of work,” but primarily lays off employees who are 40 years or older. Furthermore, evidence that the claimant was replaced by a significantly younger person is sufficient to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. See Caldwell v. Paramount Unified Sch. Dist. For instance, if an individual who is 55 years old is replaced by someone in their early 40s, that individual might be able to establish a prima facie case.
Our age discrimination attorneys can help you identify and gather additional persuasive evidence of discrimination to corroborate your potential claims. Otherwise, if it is just your word against your manager’s word, it might be difficult – if not impossible – for you to prove your claims.
What should I do if I am being discriminated against because of my age?
If you have concerns that you are being treated unfairly at work or that you were terminated for discriminatory reasons, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation. While this might be the first time you are facing an employment dispute, employers have lot of experience in handling these issues and typically engage human resources or legal counsel for assistance. You will likewise benefit from the same guidance.
Engaging an age discrimination attorney at your earliest opportunity will increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome because it will enable us to begin building a file of important information and evidence needed to effectively represent you. Our offices are located in Los Angeles and Culver City. We represent professionals throughout the state of California.
For more information regarding employee rights, please visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).