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Age discrimination still affecting thousands of workers every year

While some workers in Los Angeles may look forward to retiring as soon as they are able to, others may look forward to working for as long as they possibly can. Having a career and remaining involved in the workplace can be very fulfilling, and some workers simply do not want to give up such an important part of their lives when they reach the age of retirement.

Although workers might assume that they will never face discrimination in the workplace on the basis of their age after they have spent years helping a company grow, the truth is that age discrimination still exists in the workplace.

While many businesses in California and throughout the U.S. have had to adjust budgets and decrease their workforce over the past few years, workers have commonly been subjected to age discrimination. During layoffs, companies have chosen to layoff older workers over younger and less experienced workers. And while hiring new employees, some companies have chosen to hire employees who are younger simply because they may potentially work for companies much longer compared to older employees.

Employees who are 40 years old or older are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of age. However, this law does not protect all workers who are laid off, passed over for promotions or not hired because of their age.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers may be held liable for violating the ADEA when a worker's age is the only reason an employer has to not hire, not promote or to lay off an employee. This means a worker who is fired or not hired for mixed-reasons, including age, may not be able to pursue a successful age discrimination claim if an employer can prove that age was only a part of its reason for not hiring a worker or for letting a worker go.

Even though the ADEA has been difficult to enforce in workplace discrimination cases, age discrimination complaints have been on the rise in the U.S. During 1997, more than 15,000 age discrimination complaints were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. During 2010, about 23,000 age discrimination claims were reported. Clearly, many workers believe that they are discriminated against on the basis of their age every year, which has some wondering whether employment laws need to be amended in order to make sure more employers are held accountable for violating workers' rights.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Is your workplace ageist?" Rex Huppke, March 25, 2013

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