Age Discrimination Rampant in Technology Industries, Insiders Say

In most fields, experience is seen as a benefit, something valued and sought-after.

However, in the high-tech world and Silicon Valley in particular, experience, or more specifically, age, may actually work against you. computer2

In fact, age discrimination in California appears to be especially acute in the technological fields, according to a recent article published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Just take, for example, the recent statements by 28-year-old Mark Zuckerberg in cultivating new talent. He said he wanted to “stress the importance of being young and technical.” He went on to say that “Young people are smarter.” He pointed to the fact that most chess masters are younger than 30. He said young people live simpler lives. They don’t own homes and aren’t obligated to families, which, he said, “allows us to focus on what’s important.”

Many tech executives may be taking this lead in its hiring practices. Last year, three of Silicon Valley’s largest tech firms announced they would be laying off a total of nearly 50,000 workers. These cuts are continuing this year, with Cisco Systems, an otherwise profitable company, slashing its work force by 4,000 this summer.

And yet, the total number of available technical jobs in the state has spiked. But firms aren’t hiring those who have been in the industry for the last 10, 15 or 20 years. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. Federally-funded career counselors in Silicon Valley say that there is “definitely that sense” that companies are seeking workers who are both younger and cheaper. Experienced people looking for jobs are routinely interviewed and turned down, the counselors say, “because they’re older.”

Part of it, say industry insiders, is that firms are looking for workers who have only the most current skills. California’s Employment Development Department recently released statistics showing that the vast majority of those filling the IT jobs in the state are between the ages of 25 and 44. Software application developers are between 25 and 24. In some cases, they are even younger. In computer and systems management, the one arena that tends to employ more 44-and-older workers, competition is fierce.

Managers, say those in the field, are quickly becoming less and less irrelevant – especially if they have miniscule technical experience.

One 56-year-old former IT manager, recently laid off from his position as engineering director at a small start-up, said his age was a factor in the decision to cut him because, “Age correlates with experience and experience correlates with salary.” He was reportedly at the top of the layoff list because of his six-figure salary, warranted by his experience. He would have had to take a 33 percent pay cut to keep his position. However, the firm never extended such an offer and he was left with no choice.

While in most fields, someone in their 40s and 50s would be considered in their prime, that is not so much the case int the tech field. There is skill obsolescence, but there is also a sense that those who “act old” would not contribute to the kind of work atmosphere many tech employers are seeking. Exacerbating matters is that technical engineers often aren’t retrained by the companies that employ them, meaning their value as workers may continue to diminish as they age.

Age discrimination most certainly exists in the tech world, but it can be tough to prove. That’s why you need an experienced employment attorney to fight for you.

Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

In Silicon Valley, age can be a curse, Aug. 20, 2013, By Andrew S. Ross, San Francisco Chronicle

More Blog Entries:

Age Discrimination Highlighted in Recent Princeton Study, Aug. 19, 2013, Costa Mesa Age Discrimination Lawyer Blog