Navigating Age Discrimination in California: A Comprehensive Guide (Part 2)

It is unlawful for an employer to fire, demote, deny employment, or refuse to promote someone because they are 40 years old or older. It is also against the law for an employer to deny an employee benefits or privileges, such as compensation or job training, because they are 40 years or older. California’s age discrimination laws can be found under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This law applies to employers with at least five employees. On the other hand, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the federal law that protects employees and job applicants against age discrimination, only applies to employers with at least 20 employees. Below, we discuss the legal options that employees and job applicants have in the event that they fall victim to age discrimination.

Your Legal Options if an Employer Discriminates Against You Because of Your Age

When an employee or job applicant is adversely affected by an employment action that an employer took because of their (the employee’s or job applicant’s) age, the employee or job applicant can take legal action against the employer. Generally, this entails filing a written complaint with an administrative agency. Individuals pursuing an age discrimination case must file a complaint with an administrative agency before filing a lawsuit in civil court.

If you are 40 years or older and an employer has discriminated against you because of your age, resulting in you suffering damages, you can file your complaint under state or federal law. If you are filing under state law, you should file your complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If you are bringing your claim under federal law, you can file your complaint with the DFEH or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

After going through the administrative process, you can obtain a right-to-sue letter, which will allow you to file a lawsuit in civil court.

Proving Age Discrimination

Under state law, you are required to prove that age was a substantial motivating factor in the employment decision. In contrast, under federal law, you need to prove that age was the determining factor. Proving that age was the determining factor entails showing that the employer would not have made the decision were it not for your age. Generally, the burden of proof is easier under state law.

Damages Recoverable in an Age Discrimination Case

Under California law, all compensatory damages are recoverable, including emotional distress. California law also allows you to recover punitive damages. Federal law does not allow for emotional distress and punitive damages. However, if you file your age discrimination complaint under federal law and succeed, you can recover liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are meant to punish the behavior of the employer. 

Statute of Limitations

You should note that there are strict deadlines for bringing age discrimination claims. If you are filing a claim under state law, you must do so within three years. On the other hand, if you are filing a claim under federal law, you must do so within 300 days. If you file a complaint under state law and the DFEH issues you a right-to-sue letter, you will have one year to file your lawsuit. If you get a right-to-sue letter after filing a complaint under federal law, you will have 90 days to file your lawsuit.

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

If you need more information on age discrimination or suspect that you or someone you know has been a victim of age discrimination, contact a California employment lawyer.