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Proving your age discrimination case

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Age Discrimination

Many California workers enjoy their jobs and have had long and fulfilling careers. If this is your situation, you may feel lucky to have had such a rewarding career experience.

However, as you get older, you might start to notice changes. Perhaps you notice other, younger co-workers are being treated better than you or getting opportunities that you do not. Maybe you start hearing comments about your age or characteristics, such as being called a “Boomer.”

These could be signs of age discrimination, which is illegal. Federal and California law state that it is illegal to discriminate against employees over the age of 40 because of their age. If you were terminated, laid off or experienced another type of adverse employment action, you could have a case for age discrimination.

However, before you file your claim for age discrimination, it is important to know what you must prove to succeed.

Direct and circumstantial evidence

Proving any type of claim requires evidence. Although direct evidence is stronger than circumstantial evidence, most employers are not going to admit to discrimination or give you other direct evidence to prove your case.

This leaves you relying on circumstantial evidence or a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence.

Even if you must use circumstantial evidence, there are ways to prove your case. You must first prove that you are in the protected class, which in terms of age discrimination, means that you are age 40 or older.

If your situation involved being fired or demoted, you must show that you were replaced by someone younger. This does not always mean someone took your exact role.

Sometimes employers try to avoid an age discrimination claim by “eliminating” a position but then hiring someone younger for the same position but simply giving them a different title. Gather information about your replacement and what role they are performing.

You do not always need to be fired or demoted to experience age discrimination. Evidence that younger workers are treated better is age discrimination.

Employment records and other written evidence

Evidence such as employment records can show that older employees were punished more harshly for the same actions. Proving this is sometimes challenging because employers will try to find a way to distinguish the actions between the employees to justify the different actions.

Age discrimination can also occur when an employer implements a policy that specifically targets or negatively impacts older workers.

A common employer defense against an age discrimination claim is to find a legitimate looking reason they took the adverse action against you. Therefore, gather documentation of any good performance reviews, promotions, raises or any other evidence to show that you were performing your job satisfactorily when the action was taken.

Remember that you do not need to prove that you were a perfect worker who never made mistakes. You must show that your performance met the job’s expectations. Written evidence of you being told you did a good job or other positive remarks can help, as well.

Finally, report your age discrimination claim to your employer. California employers have a legal duty to respond to discrimination claims. Additionally, they cannot correct the problem if they do not know about it.