In Focus: Age Discrimination in the Technology Sector

By Douglas Lipsky

There are two overarching trends in the contemporary workplace, particularly in the technology sector: an influx of new workers (millennials and generation Y candidates), combined with an aging workforce. As such, reports of age discrimination are on the rise, and age-related lawsuits are becoming more common.

Don’t be fooled into thinking age discrimination is limited to the confines of Silicon Valley — it is also a growing problem in New York across multiple industries. If you believe you have not been treated fairly by your employer because of your age, you need the advice and guidance of an experienced employment law attorney. In the meantime, this article is a brief discussion of age discrimination in the American workplace.

Age Discrimination Lawsuits at a Glance

Age discrimination is said to be prevalent in the tech sector, and there have been numerous lawsuits filed against Apple, Cisco Systems, Google, HP, and Oracle, many of which involve claims of wrongful termination. While the tech giants steadfastly deny allegations of age discrimination, the number of lawsuits may be due in part to consolidation in the industry (e.g. mergers and acquisitions) leading many tech giants to reduce their workforces.

Previously, layoffs have customarily been handled on a “last in-first out” (or LIFO) basis.  Today, however, employers are faced with a graying workforce of employees who are usually paid higher salaries. The most expedient way to cut costs is to reduce labor costs by forcing older workers out and hiring or retaining younger employees workers at lower salary levels.

There is also a common perception that younger employees are smarter,  have advanced tech-skills and are more adaptable to an evolving, diverse workplace. Finally, the tech-sector is constantly advancing, which means employers often to seek out younger talent. Claims of ageism are not limited to the tech-sector.  In fact, age discrimination complaints are becoming increasingly common in financial services, retail, restaurants and other industries throughout the nation and New York state.

How to Combat Age Discrimination

Older workers must be proactive and prepare themselves for the contemporary workplace by learning new skills and making transitions to find new opportunities.

At times, however, an older employee may suddenly be given an unfavorable evaluation after years of positive employment reviews, be passed over for a promotion, or have their job duties inexplicably reassigned. Often, experienced (seasoned) job applicants are turned down for a position in favor of younger candidates.

While each of these scenarios may constitute age discrimination, such cases are hard to prove. Employers invariably argue that there were justifiable reasons for taking an adverse employment action, and many forms of age discrimination are subtle. Ultimately, it takes a highly skilled employment law attorney to determine if you have a valid age discrimination claim, and fight for the compensation you deserve.


About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.