New York Employment Law Blog

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Look at Age Discrimination in Silicon Valley

Is age discrimination a problem in the tech-sector?

As parts of the workforce grows older, age discrimination lawsuits are becoming increasingly common, particularly in industries in which employers tend to be younger, such as the tech sector. In fact, according to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), there have been 90 age-related lawsuits filed against a number of leading technology companies in Silicon Valley.

The wave of lawsuits has been filed against tech giants such as Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Apple, Google and Oracle, most of which claim wrongful termination, and all of these entities have denied claims of age discrimination.

According to some observers, the number of lawsuits is not surprising given the numerous mergers and acquisitions in the industry that have led many tech companies to reduce their workforces. In the past, layoffs usually were handled on a "last in-first out" (or LIFO) basis.  

Today, however, employers are faced with a number of other considerations. In particular, a graying workforce means that these employees are often paid higher salaries. The quickest way to cut labor costs is by shedding these workers, and retaining or hiring younger workers at lower salary levels. At the same time, many believe that younger employees are more likely to have advanced tech-skills and are more adaptable to changing work situations and priorities.

Of course, claims of ageism are not unique to the tech-sector or to Silicon Valley, and there has been an increase age discrimination complaints in the financial services sector, the retail, restaurant and other industries in New York and across the nation. At the same time, the tech-sector is constantly evolving which prompts established companies and startups alike to seek out younger talent.

In the end, older workers need to prepare for the evolving workplace by learning new skills and being able to make transitions either with their current employer or by seeking new opportunities elsewhere.

But what happens when an older employee is suddenly given an unfavorable employment evaluation after years of positive reviews? What about an employee who is passed over for a promotion or whose job duties are suddenly reassigned. What if a seasoned job applicant is turned down for a position in favor of a younger individual? Could these be cases of age discrimination?

Ultimately, these cases are hard to prove because employers often argue they have justifiable reasons for making employment decisions. If you believe you have been the victim of job-related age discrimination, however, an experienced employment law attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim and explore all of your options.

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