In recent years, young CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg have created an increasingly youth-centered culture in the tech sector. At an event at Stanford in 2007, Zuckerberg made statements such as, “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” and “Young people are just smarter.”
His comments may be a symptom of a wider condition within the tech sector: the tendency to stereotype based on age. All too often, hiring managers and supervisors incorrectly assume that older applicants are incapable of learning new things. Perhaps, like Zuckerberg, they simply believe that young people are smarter. By subscribing to ageist stereotypes, they may ignore the extensive qualifications, experience, and skill of applicants aged 40 years or older. As a result of the ageist attitude among tech companies, it has become increasingly difficult for older individuals to find new jobs in the tech sector.
Many tech companies post ads with wording such as “recent college graduates preferred,” or “class of 2012 preferred”. According to Raymond Peeler at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, such ads are illegal, as they implicitly enforce age discrimination. By implying that older applicants will be frowned upon, these ads discourage older job-seekers from applying. Consequently, individuals aged 40 years and older face fewer options and opportunities during the job-search.
Age Discrimination is Illegal
Regardless of whether you are working in the tech sector or not, age discrimination is illegal. Individuals who are 40 years of age or older are protected from age-based discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the ADEA. According to the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their age with respect to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.
The only reason that a company can refuse to hire you on the basis of age is if they can prove that age is an important factor in successfully performing a job. If they cannot do so, or if their justification is found to be a pretense, then you may be eligible for monetary damages.
Many times, age discrimination comes in the form of “disparate impact,” when a seemingly neutral policy impacts older workers more than other groups. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employees can challenge company policies that negatively impact older workers, even if there is no evidence that the employer intended to discriminate based on age (Smith v. City of Jackson, Mississippi).
If you believe that you have been victim of age discrimination in the hiring process or on the job, you should consider taking legal action. Filing a lawsuit is a means by which you can recover the monetary losses you sustained as a result of age discrimination. Call Akin Law Group as soon as possible to get informed about your rights and to learn more about your options.