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Patrick, Esq.
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Category: California Employment Law
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My husband held a mid-level management position with a huge

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My husband held a mid-level management position with a huge corporation for 8 years. He was fired last week. The reason they gave him was that his reviews by some of his subordinates scored low. He did his job and was never told he wasn't doing it well. They give him goals every year and he exceeded his goals by 125%. The boss he reported to was recently replaced by a young 20 something yr old female. My husband is 60 with some health issues and they were aware of his upcoming treatment that would lead to medical leave. Seems to us that this was discrimination as they really had no legit reason to fire him. I know employment in our state is "at will" but feel this was an illegal termination. What are the chances of winning legal action?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

California Labor Code Section 2922 provides that: "employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other." This is the "at will" employment doctrine that you are speaking of. It means that an employer is free to terminate an employee for any reason whatsoever, even a reason that is entirely unfair, unless the underlying motivation is discriminatory or otherwise in violation of California law.

Thus, the only way to contest your husband's termination would be to challenge it on the ground that it was discriminatory. California law recognizes age (over 40) as a "protected class," meaning that discrimination on that basis is illegal.

The biggest issue in these cases is proving that age was the "but for" cause of termination and not just simply that it was a factor or consideration of the employer. (See Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.) This is an incredibly hard thign to show, and I'm not sure that being terminated and replaced by someone younger would itself be sufficient to prevail on a claim of age discrimination. As the plaintiff, the burden of proof will fall on your husband's shoulders.

In addition to the above, you would probably need to demonstrate, for example, a culture of favortism among young people (there was recently a case against Google that focused on that), specific statements made to you indicating that age was a motivating factor in your termination, or any sort of other adverse statements made about you in regard to your age (i.e. "John Doe is too old to cut it in this profession). Absent such additional evidence, it would be hard (though not impossible) to prove that age was the reason you were let go.

All of the above noted, if your husband believes that he has been the subject of unlawful age discrimination and wishes to file a lawsuit, he must first file a formal complaint of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Either the EEOC or the DFEH will issue him an authorization to sue after they investigate his claim. You don't need to file with both agencies. Finally, if he decides to sue, he can't miss his deadline. Under federal law in California, you have 300 days from an act of discrimination to file a complaint.

For information on how to bring a claim through California's DFEH, visit this link: For information on how to bring a claim through the EEOC, visit this link:

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the best.

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Finally, none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.
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