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Age discrimination in the tech industry: 5 FAQs

The age vibe in tech has always tilted young.

It probably goes back, at least in part, to the mythic days of Jobs and Wozniak, who started Apple at ages 21 and 26, respectively. And it's continued right on up to today.

What happens, however, when the workforce in the tech industry ages?

In this post, we will consider several key FAQs about age discrimination in the industry.

Do very many people bring age-related lawsuits or complaints against tech companies?

The workforce in the tech industry is aging along with the rest of the population. This has led to an increase in complaints alleging age discrimination against Silicon Valley companies.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has received dozens of complaints against tech companies in the last five years and compiled a list of those companies.

What are some of the companies that have had complaints filed against them?

Hewlett-Packard has been the subject of the most complaints in recent years, with 28 complaints in less than four years. Cisco Systems, Apple, Google, Oracle and Genentech were also the subject of multiple complaints on the DFEH list.

What is the most common claim made in these complaints?

Wrongful termination is the most common claim. There have also been claims for discrimination in hiring or promotion.

Are there factors besides an aging workforce that are driving the increase in age-related claims?

Yes. Besides the aging workforce, there is the ongoing relentlessly competitive dynamics of working in tech.

Corporate restructurings and mergers have resulted in various waves of downsizings. This has left the remaining workers at companies who have been through those changes under increasing pressure to be even more productive. Hewlett Packard, for example, has laid off 85,000 people in the last five years and split into two companies while also engaging in acquisitions.

Evolution of in-demand skills has also tended to push some workers to the side while others are more valued than ever.

Is the problem of age discrimination in tech likely to get better or worse?

The sheer velocity of changes in the industry, combined with the Valley's ingrained culture of celebrating the young, are likely to remain in profound tension with age discrimination laws.

From cloud computing and Big Data analytics to virtual reality to the Internet of Things, the emerging fields are dizzying. And companies in the tech industry have been known to all too often throw older workers overboard in the quest to reach the sought-after new heights.

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