The high tech companies that gave Silicon Valley its unique image have always seemed synonymous with youthful hipness and cutting-edge technology. Now, however, the realities of the workplace are beginning to tarnish this image somewhat as aging techies are being laid off and have now begun suing their former employers for wrongful termination and age discrimination.
According to a report released by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, 90 lawsuits alleging age discrimination have been filed by laid-off Silicon Valley employees since 2012. The defendants' names are familiar: Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Apple, Google, Oracle and Genentec. Most of the suits claimed wrongful termination, but a few also alleged age-based discrimination in hiring or promotion.
People with knowledge of the situation cite several factors to explain this upsurge in age-discrimination complaints. The Silicon Valley workforce, like the rest of the population, is aging. A spike in mergers has driven companies to discharge thousands of workers, and the lawsuits are alleging that the laid off workers are disproportionately older than employees who were not fired. Also, evolving needs for advanced skills that older employees may not possess are causing companies to opt for younger workers with fresh knowledge but little experience instead of older workers with experience but outdated knowledge.
The spike in age discrimination suits against technology companies may herald a broader increase in such cases as the general working population ages. Anyone who has been discharged and believes that age was a contributing factor may wish to consult an experienced employment lawyer for an analysis of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for wrongful termination.
Source: USA Today, "90 age-discrimination suits reflect growing issue for tech," Jon Swartz, Nov. 22, 2016