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Fighting age bias in the tech industry

How old is too old to be relevant in today's tech job market? If the number of lawsuits alleging age discrimination in California are any indication, it doesn't take long before you "age out" of the market as far as high-tech employers are concerned.

While the 90 or more lawsuits filed in California against tech giants like Hewlett Packard and Cisco are telling, there are some even more startling statistics that have come to light. While the median age of the U.S. worker is 42, the median ages of employees at tech companies are generally significantly lower. For example, at Facebook, the median age of its workers is only 29.

Does this mean that older employees are just not keeping up with the changes in technology and moving on of their own accord, or are there active mechanisms at play that are subtly and quietly shifting older employees out of tech jobs in favor of younger employees?

A number of workers -- and their attorneys -- think that age discrimination is absolutely a factor in whether you keep your job in the tech industry these days. Your birth date and your date of expiration as a useful employee in the eyes of your employer may be tied closely together.

Some industry observers note that not every company is even subtle about it. One company executive was quoted saying that he actively cultivated an age imbalance and a culture that was attractive to younger employees.

Like most forms of discrimination, ageism goes unchecked because people aren't sure how to stop it or, sometimes, how to recognize it. Unless the discrimination was blatant, victims may not even be sure that they can prove their case. They may just have been told that their job is no longer in existence due to a reshuffling of departments -- even though they see someone much younger doing the same job under a different title. Alternately, they may just see younger employees who are less qualified being promoted into higher positions while they seem to stuck where they are in the office hierarchy.

If you're over 40 years old, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers you to be a member of a protected class against which discrimination is illegal. An attorney who is familiar with how ageism works can help evaluate your case to see if you should consider suing your current or former employer for discrimination.

Source: USA TODAY, "90 age-discrimination suits reflect growing issue for tech," Jon Swartz, Nov. 22, 2016

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