Have you applied for jobs only to be turned away? Do you suspect that your age may be a factor in the employers’ decision not to hire you? Many older people are back in the job market, and finding a job in such a competitive environment may not be easy.
Age discrimination is illegal in California. Employee discrimination based on any arbitrary factors may be grounds for a lawsuit against the offending company or its management.
However, it is not always easy to prove age discrimination. Several laws and cases are involved in deciding if an employer is liable for discrimination, and an employment lawyer must examine each case on an individual basis to determine if the employee or a potential employee has a claim.
In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act or FEHA specifically protects employees from discrimination based on age. However, a recent United States Supreme Court case may change how FEHA is interpreted by California courts.
Under California law, employers are barred from discriminating against employees when the reason for discharge is solely based on age and not job performance. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer bases the decision to fire an employee on an arbitrary standard such as age, race, ethnic background, or religion.
Gross v. FBL Financial Services
The federal Supreme Court case Gross v. FBL Financial Services,129 S.Ct. 2343, 2351 (2009), determined that an employee who alleges age discrimination must show a “but-for” cause in order to be awarded damages. This means that the employee must show that but for his or her age, no adverse employment circumstances would have arisen. This decision places a much greater burden on the plaintiff to prove his or her case than was previously required.
Tips for Older Job Seekers
While those who have suffered discrimination may need the help of an employment lawyer, there are things anyone can do when looking for a job at an advanced age.
- Highlight your skill set. There is an unspoken assumption in many companies that older workers are not equipped to deal with high-tech environments. If you are good at computer work, highlight that on your resume. If not, focus on the skills you possess and think of them in terms of talents that are useful in today’s workplace.
- Do not focus on age. While it might be great to brag about your 30 years of experience, this can actually work against you if the person doing the hiring is young and intimidated by the thought of bossing someone so much older. Instead, highlight the contributions you have made to your company.
- Stay active. Good diet, regular exercise, and interesting hobbies will keep your outlook and your appearance attractive. Employers want to hire people who are interesting and bring a positive outlook to the work environment.
- Focus on your last ten years of work history. If you have been at the same job for years, focus on what you have accomplished in the past ten years rather than decades of similar experience. It will make your resume more manageable and show that you are still effective in the workplace.
- Keep your outlook positive Remember that employers are lucky to have workers with years of “life lessons.” If you have suffered discrimination by an employer, talk to an attorney immediately.