Proving Age Discrimination in the California Workplace

Recently, a veteran newspaper reporter, heralded for her deft and ample coverage of the crime and courts  beat in seedy Southern Florida, was recognized for her skilled fast embrace of new technology, with an editor publicly calling her a “social media star.”newspaper

Little more than a year later, she was offered a “voluntary buyout,” which a thinly veiled attempt by a company to shed older (i.e., more expensive) workers. Our age discrimination lawyers in Costa Mesa believe that this approach is not only discriminatory, it’s short-sighted, as it ends up reducing the overall quality of the finished product.

Still, such buy-outs are not technically illegal, even if they do blatantly target the over-55 crowd (every single one of the 40 employees at the paper offered the buyout was over the age of 55). Administrators can get around it by making it “voluntary.” The publisher reportedly told the employees in explaining the deal that, “surely, many of you have contemplated retirement and, if not, could probably use the skills honed during decades in the news business to land other jobs.”

Such statements are unquestionably insulting, but not all that surprising. A recent study out of London reports that one-third of those over 50 answered affirmatively when asked if they had experienced age discrimination.

During the recession, many reported that such discrimination appeared to worsen, with the effects acutely felt but severely under-reported.  Like the newspaper writer, many fear there is no way to prove that what they are experiencing in a court of law.

It’s true that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions haven’t made it any easier, though there are efforts under way to reverse some of the larger obstacles created by those rulings.

But beyond that, there are ways to definitively prove that the adverse employment action you’ve experienced is indeed age discrimination.

First of all, you could explore the possibility of direct evidence. This is often the best kind, though it involves direct comments or actions from your supervisors, co-workers or human resources personnel that pertain to your age. For example, you are called an “old fart,” asked when you plan to retire, confronted with the notion that you should “make room for younger employees,” or making references to you as a “dinosaur.” Any kind of comments like this should be immediately noted, with dates, times and potential witnesses. if it’s possible to record such statements, even better.

However, let’s say your supervisor doesn’t come out and say anything of that nature. Another way to prove age discrimination would be a sudden disciplinary record. For example, let’s say your employment record was stellar before you turned 50. Suddenly, you are constantly being written up, reprimanded and maybe even suspended. Especially if younger employees aren’t being written up for the same types of infractions, that could be a clear indication of age discrimination.

Another element that could be helpful to your case involves your blatant exclusion. So for example, your younger colleagues are often invited to events, lunches, trainings, etc., while you are left behind. You might also take note of favoritism showed to younger workers. For example, they tend to get the best assignments, leads or office space. Hiring young replacements to fill the same positions may also be anecdotal evidence.

Finally, look around to see who is being hired and promoted. If you notice that the majority of them are younger and less experienced than others who might have applied – or who at least should have been considered – age discrimination may be at play.

If you have questions about how to prove your case, contact us today.

Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Fun With Dicks and Jane, Oct. 12, 2013, By Michael Koretzky, Mouth of the South

More Blog Entries:

Age Discrimination Rampant in NYC, Oct. 21, 2013, Costa Mesa Employment Lawyer Blog