What constitutes age discrimination?

Discrimination can be a tricky situation. Discover exactly what constitutes age discrimination and what protections are offered against it.

Discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly due to a specific characteristic he or she possesses. Many traits or characteristics are protected by law so discrimination based on them becomes illegal. These laws help to protect individuals in California workplaces.

One such protected area is age. However, not all age ranges are protected under federal law, which can is only part of why age discrimination can be a little confusing. It helps to become familiar with the law and the specifics of what constitutes age discrimination, so you can be aware of your own rights.

Age discrimination defined

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces discrimination laws. It also helps to explain what age discrimination is. The law governing this type of discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It offers protection for people who are 40 years old or older against unfair workplace practices.

People under the age of 40 are not protected by this law. In addition, preference can be given to an older worker over a younger worker without breaking the law. However, preference cannot be given to a worker because he or she is younger than another worker. That would be discrimination.

In addition, employers cannot use age as a factor when hiring, firing, promoting or making other decisions regarding employment when the worker in question is over the age of 40. Employers also cannot enact rules, polices, procedures or regulations that would negatively impact only workers over 40 years old.

Some additional facts

According to the AARP, you need to be aware of some areas where the ADEA may not protect you. One issue is that the law does not protect you against being asked your age by an employer. It also does not protect you if you employer has less than 20 employees. While it does prohibit mandatory retirement ages, it won't protect you if you are in a certain field, such as aviation or public safety.

Most age discrimination seems to occur during the hiring process according to polls. However, proving discrimination is difficult. The Supreme Court has set a very high burden of proof in such cases, which means many discrimination claims will be dismissed.

If you are over the age of 40, then it is important to be vigilant about how employers are treating you. Make sure that you do not become a victim of age discrimination, and if you are discriminated against, know that you should contact an attorney who can help protect your rights, such as the Law Office of Frank S. Clowney, III.