What is age discrimination and how big of a problem is it?

Discrimination based on the age of workers has probably always been around. It hasn’t always been talked about. But that has been changing over the past few decades.

There are surely a lot of reasons for that, but we think one of the main contributors is the demographic bubble that was created with the baby boom after World War II. It has driven a wave of awareness that has swept through the culture of the country. And it seems to have been peaking in the past 20 years, as those making up the bulk of the baby boom bell curve have hit the age of 40 and above.

Age discrimination is something that has been so far under the radar for so long that many people may be unaware of just what it means and how common it is. To remedy that, we offer some thoughts on this subject, along with the recommendation that if you wonder if you have been the victim of age discrimination, you should be in touch with an attorney skilled in the workings of California and federal employment law.

So what constitutes age discrimination? State laws vary in the definition, but the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act serves as something of a baseline. What this law is meant to do is protect individuals who are 40 and older from being passed over in favor of younger people.

This protection is supposed to apply whether you are already in a position or applying for one. In practice, however, enforcing the law can be challenging. Discrimination suspected is not the same as discrimination proven, and to build a case that holds up takes legal skill.

How often does age discrimination occur? This is hard to pin down, too. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it handled more than 20,000 age discrimination complaints last year. That was down only slightly from the peak of more than 24,000 complaints received in 2008.

But chances are good that those numbers don’t come anywhere close to reflecting reality. Attorneys with experience in this area of law know that many legitimate claims are made because people don’t know their rights or fear negative consequences if they try to exercise them. That shouldn’t be.

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