Each time Randy Adams, aged 60, applied for a chief executive officer position with a company in Silicon Valley, he watched the position go to a younger, less experienced man. Before going to his next interview, Adams took 25 years off his life by trading his button-down shirt and loafers for a T-shirt and sneakers and shaving off his gray hair. Adams even had an eyelid lift. The company hired him!
California law prohibits discrimination against any person because of age in hiring, firing, promoting or any other condition of employment. California defines the protected class of people as aged 40 and older. California courts have ruled that a person's age may not be a motivating factor in an employer's adverse employment action. In addition, if a person can supply proof that a "substantially younger" person was favored instead of a person older than 40, the court may infer intentional age discrimination.
California damages for age discrimination
A person who suffered adverse employment actions because of age in violation of California law may seek the following damages:
Pain, suffering and emotional distress
Loss of wages (back and front pay)
To recover, you must file a claim for age discrimination within one year. There is no limit to the amount of damages that can be awarded in an age discrimination lawsuit.
Federal law tightens the belt on age discrimination suits
In Gross v. FBL Financial Services, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff must show that age was the but-for-cause of the adverse job action taken against him. Previously, victims of age discrimination were required to show the same standard as in other forms of employment discrimination — that age was a motivating factor, but not the only factor. In Gross, the court said that the plaintiff must show that age was the only factor that resulted in the illegal discrimination in employment.
Proving age discrimination in employment can be very difficult, requiring extensive research into emails, conversations and personnel records.