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Multiple laws ban age discrimination at the workplace

People of all genders, races, religions and sexual orientations who are in the workforce may be vulnerable to age discrimination someday. If they are not currently old enough, they will be eventually, so age discrimination in the workplace is a problem that virtually everybody has a direct interest in eradicating from California.

Workers in the state actually have two layers of legal protection from employers discriminating against them for being “too old.” Both the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit most forms of discrimination against someone over 40, based on their age.

The ADEA empowers those who believe they were denied a job, lost a job, or otherwise suffered discrimination because of being over 40 to take action against the employer in court. Alternatively, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can investigate and litigate cases of possible age discrimination in the workplace. Litigation is also a possibility under the FEHA.

Both these laws contain exceptions. The ADEA applies only to businesses with at least 20 full-time or regular part-time employees, which excludes many small businesses. It also exempts the government itself, or government-owned companies, from litigation.

In addition, employers are allowed to have age limits for certain jobs. For example, pilots legally cannot be in command of some aircraft after they turn 65.

Besides hiring and firing decisions, employers can discriminate against older employees in the way they train, compensate and promote them. Lawmakers have decided that none of this behavior is acceptable, and that victims have the right to compensation in court.