Age discrimination is the act of using age for employment decisions rather than ability. Age discrimination is protected under several laws. These include the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) , the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s fair Employment and Housing Act.
Under Federal law, age discrimination laws apply to employers who have 20 or more employees. To be covered under the ADEA, you must be at least 40 years old.
Unlawful practices that trigger age discrimination claims vary. The employee must show either: (1) the employer failed or refused to hire, or to terminate any individual; (2) segregate or limit the employee in such a way to deprive them of employment opportunities (e.g. promotions); or (3) to reduce the employee’s wages.
There are also three ways of proving age discrimination. The first is discrimination by disparate treatment (intentional discrimination). Second is discrimination by disparate impact (policy contains age bias, eg hire wages of older employees). Third is discrimination by age-based harassment (hostile work environment).
To prove age discrimination, the courts apply a “but for” standard. This means that the employee must prove an adverse impact was caused only because of the age discrimination. Typically, this means the employee must show that the reason for the employer’s conduct was pretextual.