In 1967, Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). It protects older workers in California and throughout the country from being denied a job or other employment opportunities strictly on age alone. However, it is still relatively common for employees to experience age discrimination in the workplace. According to an AARP survey, 60 percent of respondents over the age of 45 said that they have been discriminated against based on age or saw it happen to someone else.
One of the reasons why companies may engage in ageism is that it can be hard to prove. The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that plaintiffs in age discrimination cases must show that age was the primary factor in an employment decision. While it can be hard to prove that age discrimination took place in a given case, there are ways to change the methods older employees are treated.
For instance, Congress could amend the ADEA to make it easier for older workers to take legal action when they are victims of ageism at work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also become more interested in how workers in their 40s, 50s and beyond are treated. The EEOC recently pursued legal action against Texas Roadhouse for denying bartenders and other workers opportunities based on age.
When age discrimination occurs, it may have a negative impact on both the employer and the employee. Employees may lose out on job opportunities that may help provide for themselves and their families. Furthermore, they may take legal action against a company, which may lead to legal bills and negative brand attention. If an employee is successful in an age discrimination case, he or she may win compensation for lost wages, the value of benefits lost and punitive damages.