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In California, employers may not use an employee’s or a job applicant’s age as a basis for employment decisions, such as hiring or firing. An individual must be 40 years old or older to be protected by age discrimination laws. California’s age discrimination laws do not protect independent contractors.

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An older employee may raise a reasonable inference of age discrimination if he/she is treated less favoraby than a significantly younger employee while the older employee is performing the job satisfactorily. For example, an older employee may show age bias if he/she is passed up for promotion by a significantly younger employee who has lower qualifications.

Employers are also prohibited from targeting older employees for layoffs. An older employee may demonstrate age discrimination if he/she is laid off while significantly younger employees are retained in similar jobs or reassigned to positions for which the older employee is also qualified. Generally, “a significantly younger employee” is someone who is at least 10 years younger.

An employer also may not limit its job search to younger applicants because it believes they will demand less pay. Under California law, evidence that an older employee was selected for termination because the employee had a higher rate of compensation compared to younger employees may serve as evidence of age bias.

Due to age discrimination protections, pension or retirement plans requiring participants to retire at a specified age are also generally unenforceable. Employees indicating the desire and ability to work must be allowed to do so beyond any retirement date contained in a private pension or retirement plan.

If you believe you have been subject to age discriminaiton or age-based harassment, you should consult with an attorney immediately to determine potential remedies and applicable statutes of limitations.

Bobby Shukla represents individuals in employent law matters at Shukla Law. She can be reached at (415) 986-1338.