The Grey Ceiling

Many companies have an informal policy of dismissing employees when they reach a certain age because they would prefer to train younger workers. Younger and less senior employees cost less, are thought to have fewer health-related issues and to be more trainable. In most cases, these policies are against the spirit of employment law. Job seekers are reporting age discrimination in hiring as early as the mid-thirties. In some industries, people are considered “washed-up” by the time they reach their forties. People have given the practice a nickname, “the grey ceiling.” The length of time in unemployment correlates with age (largely because of people older than 45).

The Rip Van Winkle Effect

Age discrimination also happens because of changes in the job search culture. People who have been working in a job for 20 years may not be aware that the job duration expectation has changed. When many people started their employment, people could be expected to stay in a job for decades. Now, employment is expected to last 5 years on average. Unemployed people who did not grow up in this short-term job culture may not understand this.

In addition, the rituals around writing resumes and interviewing have changed considerably in the last ten years or so. At one time, a resume was supposed to contain a full experience summary and could cover 4 or 5 pages or more. Now, long resumes are considered suspect. Everyone is advised to keep your resume to one or (at most) two pages. Job seekers are urged to leave off the resume any job experience more than a few years old.

The Aging Working Population

In a society whose population is aging and where people retain their health longer, this endemic practice of age discrimination is extremely wasteful of human talent. Growth statistics indicate that over the 16 years between 2008 and 2024 the population of people over 55 who are still working will have increased by 52%. Still healthy at 65, more people are postponing retirement to continue working. Many feel that not working is a factor in age-related dysfunction. On the other hand, studies have shown no relationship between age and work performance.

Age Discrimination and the Law

Federal employment law  (The Age Discrimination in Employment Act) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are 40 years old or older. Many states have their own similar anti-discrimination statutes. Anyone who has a substantiated belief that he or she is suffering age discrimination of the grey ceiling variety or who have been refused employment or promotion because of their age can sue the employer for compensation or damages. You will almost certainly need to retain an experienced employment lawyer to help you.

The procedure involves several steps.

  1. You must file an administrative complaint with the federal office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is the office which enforces the federal anti-discrimination laws (your state may have its own similar office to enforce its own similar statutes). The EEOC will investigate your complaint by contacting the employer, interviewing witnesses and reviewing other evidence.
  2. You can file your formal lawsuit within 60 days of filing the complaint with the EEOC. Meanwhile, once the investigation is complete, and if it suggests valid grounds, they may issue a “right-to-sue” notice. This will give you 90 days to file your formal lawsuit.
  3. The process for civil lawsuits will kick in. You become a plaintiff. Your lawyer and the lawyer for the defendant will conduct a Discovery to gather and exchange the information and grounds for the suit.
  4. Before you go to trial, you will have the opportunity to seek mediation from a third party which can bring about a negotiated settlement.
  5. If mediation fails or is rejected your case will go to trial in a civil court.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a boutique law firm that focuses on employment law, consumer fraud, and class action attorneys. Please contact us to learn more.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986