DFEH: 90 Age Discrimination Complaints Filed Against Tech Firms Since 2012

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing reports that since 2012, there have been 90 age-related complaints filed against the 12 top technology companies in Silicon Valley. phone

This tells us two things:

  • Age discrimination is commonplace in the technology industry.
  • The graying workforce isn’t staying quiet about it.

Age discrimination lawsuits nationally are on the rise, as Baby Boomers are reaching and working beyond the age of 65. The New York Times detailed the fact that in 2015, there were 21,000 age discrimination complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Only a small percentage of those actually go to court, and proving these claims at trial is often a challenge. That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that in cases of demotion or dismissal, workers have to prove that age was the motivating factor. That can be tough for a few reasons. One is that we’re often talking about colleagues who may have known each other for a long time and have worked together closely for years. The second is that there is not usually a so-called “smoking gun” that clearly shows age was the motivation.

In technology companies, however, there seems to have been a more brazen attitude when it comes to age discrimination. There have been reports of administrators and even CEOs equating older workers with antiquated ideas, failing to recognize the inherent value in having workers with a great deal of experience. These companies have certain perceptions of their product and their target market, and have expressed concerns that older workers mar the appearance of a modern, progressive company on the cutting edge.

The 90 complaints referenced by the DEFH were either for requests for the agency to investigate or to ask for the immediate right to sue. California is home to an out-sized number of technology firms, each of which may have thousands or even tens of thousands of workers. That’s why 90 complaints over the course of four years may not sound like a ton, but you must consider also that age discrimination in many cases goes largely unreported.

Among those named in the complaints:

  • Hewlett-Packard faces 28 complaints;
  • Cisco Systems faces 11 complaints;
  • Apple faces nine complaints;
  • Google faces eight complaints;
  • Oracle and Genetech both face seven complaints.

Other firms include Facebook, Yahoo, Tesla Motors, Twitter, LinkedIn and Intel.

Most of the claims assert liability for wrongful termination, though some cases do allege discrimination in hiring or promotion.

Those who work in Silicon Valley aren’t surprised by the numbers. There are an increasing number of workers who want or have to work longer than before. Specifically in the technology industry, there has also been an increase in the percentage of mergers and restructuring deals, which has resulted in companies laying off tens of thousands of workers. On top of that, because technology does evolve rapidly, certain skill sets may diminish in value.

In many cases, the number of lawsuits increase shortly after the latest round of layoffs, performance views, mergers or reorganizations.

The burden of proof in these cases is on the plaintiff. This is not to say these cases are impossible to win – they aren’t. However, having an experienced attorney is critical to a successful case.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

90 age-discrimination complaints reflect growing issue for tech, Dec. 2, 2016, By Jon Swartz, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

L.A. Age Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Tesla, Nov. 25, 2016, L.A. Age Discrimination Attorney Blog