Companies in the tech industry have been faced accusations of age discrimination for years. Now, according to a recent lawsuit filing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating Google for its hiring practices, including allegations of age discrimination. This lawsuit was filed by Cheryl Fillekes, a 47-year old systems engineer who was turned down for employment by Google. Ms. Fillekes and other older workers who claim discrimination by Google are seeking certification as a class action.
There is no question that the tech industry skews young. According to a survey of American companies by payscale.com, the median employee age at Google is 29. The median employee age at Apple is 31. These ages are far lower than the median American employee age of 41. While these numbers in and of themselves are not proof of discrimination, they are noteworthy. Interestingly, while Google publishes a report each year about its racial and gender diversity, it does not publish any information about its workers' ages.
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a federal law, companies cannot discriminate against workers who are 40 years or older. Many states, including Maryland, have similar laws that protect workers from age discrimination.
Public statements by tech industry CEOs give rise to older workers' claims of discrimination
Furthermore, many Silicon Valley CEOs have made public statements that a reasonable person would view as prejudicial against older workers. Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg was famously quoted as saying "Young people are just smarter." Hubspot CEO and co-founder Brian Halligan said "In the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated." In an environment where CEOs and leadership feel comfortable making these statements in public, a reasonable person might wonder what these people are saying and doing in private.
Investors in the tech industry seem to prefer younger workers. Furthermore, companies in the tech industry may prefer younger workers because they cost less. Regardless, these factors do not give companies license to discriminate.
It will be interesting to see if the EEOC finds any evidence of age discrimination at Google. If you believe that you have been harmed by age discrimination in the workplace, a lawyer can make a critical difference. The Thatcher Law Firm is a strong resource for employers and employees across Maryland.
Sources: EEOC investigating Google for age discrimination, lawsuit says, USA Today, Jessica Guynn, July 6, 2016, When it comes to age bias, tech companies don't even bother to lie, Observer.com, Dan Lyons, April 2, 2016, Say what? 'Young people are just smarter' CNET.com, Margaret Kane, March 28, 2007