What to do if I think that I was the victim of age discrimination?

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What to do if I think that I was the victim of age discrimination?

I am 56 and recently applied for a job at a Fortune 500 technology company as a senior level sales rep; a position that I am very qualified for. The HR recruiter agreed that it would be a great entry point to get my foot in the door. Went through 3 grueling interviews. In the third interview in front of 3 other employees, the VP of sales said to me: “How are you going to feel working alongside people who were in grade school back when you worked at Company X? They’ll run laps around you in the beginning”. The next day, the HR recruiter called and said I wasn’t a fit. Is this age discrimination? I think I was disqualified because this company is seeking a youthful culture only. 

Asked on August 9, 2011 California

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In general, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate based on age under both the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).   Under both the state and federal laws, there are only a certain group of people that have standing to sue.  First, anyone under 40 years of age is considered too young. 

If you were truly discriminated due to age, than you may have a legitimate age discrimination lawsuit and could possibly seek punitive damages, damages for emotional distress, and compensatory damages.  Punitive damages are damages which are designed to punish the wrongful behavior of the defendant, in this case would be the potential employer.  However it is important to note that just because you may have discriminated against, as in any other type of lawsuit, you still need to prove damages.  The issue of damages and how they are assessed is quite complicated and can differ greatly between the state and federal laws.  For instance, you cannot collect for punitive damages and emotional distress under the federal law.        

Since there are many factors to analyze in assessing whether or not you may have a legitimate discrimination case, you would benefit from contacting an employment attorney in your area that specializes in these matters.  The discussion of damages alone can be quite complicated and confusing, but an employment attorney would be best equipped to evaluate your case. 


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