Americans are aging. Baby boomers are beginning to reach retirement age in record numbers. With this aging population comes an aging workforce. As California workers get older, they should understand that they have all the same legal rights that they had as younger workers.

Employee laws forbid California employers from firing older workers because of their age or for treating them differently than younger workers. However, not all employers follow these simple rules. Some employers still try purge their workplaces of older workers — and they can be punished for it.

Recently, a Los Angeles jury awarded four former waitresses $5.7 million dollars after they filed suit for wrongful termination and age discrimination. According to these former waitresses — who are between 49 and 70 years old — their former employer fired them after taking over the restaurant where they worked. The waitresses claimed that the restaurant’s new owner then replaced them with younger women, all of whom were in their 20s.

The restaurant claimed that it had not done anything wrong. In fact, the owners claimed that at least 12 workers were not terminated, including workers who were as old as 75.

Age discrimination is just one type of illegal workplace discrimination that unfortunately is all too common in California. When employers discriminate against employees because of their race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or other similar factor, then those employers may be held liable for the losses to those employees that result. Employees should make sure they understand their rights in the workplace if they believe that they may be subjected to illegal workplace discrimination. Workers in these situations may be entitled to compensation, just like the waitresses claimed in this case.

Source: Insurance Journal, “California Servers Awarded $5.7M In Age Discrimination Suit,” Dec. 27, 2013