Age Discrimination in the California Workplace

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Age discrimination is present in many workplaces. California, with its diverse workforce, is no exception. It’s a form of prejudice that can significantly impact older employees. However, state and federal laws are in place to protect older workers from unfair treatment based on their age.


California Age Discrimination Laws:

In California, age discrimination is primarily governed by two key laws:

  1. Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): FEHA prohibits discrimination in employment, including age discrimination. It applies to employers with five or more employees and protects individuals 40 and older.
  2. Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): ADEA is a federal law that protects against age discrimination for employees aged 40 and older. It applies to employers with 20 or more employees.


Forms of Age Discrimination:

Age discrimination can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Hiring: Older job seekers may face difficulty securing employment due to stereotypes that they are less adaptable or innovative.
  • Promotions: Older employees may be passed over for promotions in favor of younger colleagues.
  • Wage Discrimination: Pay discrepancies based on age can occur, with older workers earning less than their younger counterparts in similar roles.
  • Harassment: Older workers may experience offensive remarks, jokes, or derogatory comments about their age.


Protecting Older Workers:

To safeguard older workers in California, employers must adhere to these fundamental principles:

  1. Equal Treatment: Treat employees equally, regardless of age. Policies, promotions, and terminations should be based on merit, not age.
  2. Reasonable Accommodations: Provide reasonable accommodations for older employees if they have medical conditions that do not affect their ability to perform their job.
  3. Training and Sensitivity: Conduct training programs that raise awareness about age discrimination and create a workplace culture of inclusivity and respect.
  4. Document Incidents: Keep records of age-related incidents, complaints, or disciplinary actions. This documentation can be crucial in addressing age discrimination cases.
  5. Consultation: Seek legal counsel when addressing age discrimination concerns or developing policies to prevent discrimination.


Taking Action Against Age Discrimination:

If you believe you have experienced age discrimination in your workplace, it’s essential to take action:

  1. Internal Complaint: Report the discrimination to your employer’s human resources department or follow your company’s established procedures for addressing discrimination.
  2. File a Complaint: If internal measures do not resolve the issue, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  3. Legal Action: Consult with an experienced employment attorney to explore the possibility of legal action against your employer.


Age discrimination is unjust and unlawful in California. Protecting older workers from discrimination upholds their rights and enriches workplaces with diverse perspectives and experiences, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable workforce.

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