A long-time female employee of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, who has been an employee since 1985, has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the SFDA. The lawsuit alleges that the District Attorney fired her without cause, and discriminated against her due to her age. The employee worked as an investigator, and always received positive reviews and raises. In addition, she was promoted five times before she was fired. In August 2014, she was fired from her position as Assistant Chief Victim/Witness Investigator and Director of the Subpoena Division. She was 59, and just 10 months shy of receiving a retirement benefit given to individuals who choose to retire at 60.
A few weeks before she was fired, the employee received a letter informing her that the District Attorney’s Office was investigating reports concerning her attendance. The letter was from the office’s chief administrative and financial officer, alleging that there were reports that the employee was frequently busy with non-work activities while she was on company time. The employee claims that although she was a co-owner of a nearby restaurant and often ate lunch there, she was very careful not to let her visits interfere with her work at the D.A.’s Office.
The lawsuit claims that the SFDA decided to terminate the employee due to her age, using her performance as a pre-textual reason for the termination. The woman hired to replace the terminated employee was almost half her age, had much less experience, and was paid a much lower salary than the plaintiff had been making. According to the plaintiff, it was a common practice by the District Attorney’s office to fire older employees in order to hire younger, cheaper workers. The Plaintiff is suing for her lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees, and emotional distress.
If the allegations contained in the lawsuit are true, the employer violated both state and federal law. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit discrimination based on age. Under federal law, the individuals must be over the age of 40 in order to be entitled to protection from employment discrimination based on age. These protections apply both to current employees and job applicants. However, employers are legally allowed to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are over the age of 40.
In addition to providing protection against age discrimination, federal and state laws also forbid harassment based on age. Harassment can include offensive remarks about a person’s age. Simple teasing or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious are not illegal. The harassment does not have to come from a person in authority – it can come from a co-worker, or even someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as an independent contractor or a customer.
In today’s youth-obsessed culture, age discrimination and harassment are not uncommon, particularly at technology companies. A company may decide it does not want to hire an employee because of his or her age. Companies may choose to terminate the employment of older employees who cost the company more money than younger, inexperienced employees. Although common practices, they are illegal. It can be tricky to prove that a company refused to hire an employee or fired an employee because of his or her age. However, once it is proven, a company will be forced to pay damages.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that companies that choose to discriminate against employees or potential employees because of their age should be held liable and forced to pay damages. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your age, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland age discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She will provide you with a free consultation on your case. Call today to learn more.