The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits discrimination in employment based on nine categories, including age. California protects 13 classes of people from employment discrimination. Whereas federal law requires employers to have 20 or more employees to be subject to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), California law demands employers have only five employees subject to California anti-discrimination laws. While both U.S. and California law protect employees aged 40 years old and more from employment discrimination, it is significantly easier to prove your case in California.
Strict standard in ADEA cases
In a 2009 landmark decision, Gross v. FBL Financial Services, the U.S. Supreme made it considerably more difficult for persons filing age discrimination lawsuits to succeed in their claims against employers. At the age of 54 years old, Jack Gross, employed as a claims administration director, was reassigned to the position of claims project coordinator. Meanwhile, FBL Financial Services created a new position with many of the responsibilities of Gross' previous position. Lisa Kneeskern, who was in her early forties, was given the new job. Gross sued, claiming violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Gross' claim, holding that a plaintiff claiming adverse treatment because of age must demonstrate that age was the “but-for” cause of the discriminatory treatment. In simple terms, a plaintiff in an age discrimination case needs to show that age was the only factor causing the employer to treat him or her adversely.
Proving age discrimination in California is easier
In 2002, the California State Assembly added age to the list of protected classes included in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). According to California law, a plaintiff arguing age discrimination in employment only needs to show that age was a motivating factor in the employer's decision. This is a significantly easier standard than the U.S. Supreme Court's new but-for causation rule adopted in Gross.
If you feel that you are the victim of adverse treatment at work because of your age, an experienced San Jose litigation lawyer can provide you with professional legal litigation services. Contact our office today for more information.