How Are Technology Companies Hiding Age Discrimination?

Recently, on our employment portal, we discussed how a 64-year-old tech worker has filed a lawsuit against Google over allegations of age discrimination. Photo of newspaper

The man claims that the tech giant failed to hire him even though it told him in an email that he “would be a great candidate to come work at Google.” The man’s lawsuit claims that Google’s median worker age was 29 in 2013, despite the U.S. Department of Labor reporting that the average age for a computer programmer that year was 43.

With this lawsuit in mind, recently Fortune had an interesting story about how many tech companies are masking age bias during their hiring processes by asking that applicants be a “digital native” in postings.

What Does “Digital Native” Mean?

Some experts say that it is a term used to dissuade older applicants from applying for jobs. In a 2001 essay, one writer defined being a “digital native” as someone “born during or after the start of the digital world, meaning they grew up immersed in technologies and are ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers and the Internet,” according to Fortune.

“The term ‘digital natives’ makes me cringe,” an attorney told Fortune. “This is a very risky area because we’re using the term that has connotations associated with it that are very age-based. It’s kind of a loaded term.”

Fortune reported that it searched and found many listings from tech companies asking that applicants be “digital natives”.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled previously that using phrases like “college student” or “recent college graduate” are violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). However, Fortune noted that a spokesperson for the EEOC said that the agency has not taken a position on the term “digital native”.

Should Age Discrimination Victims Speak to an Attorney?

It is sad that this loaded language is being used in postings to allegedly dissuade older workers from applying to tech positions. Keep in mind, the ADEA was designed to protect people over the age of 40 from experiencing age discrimination. This includes instances where they may face discrimination during the hiring, promotions and training process.

If you believe that you are the victim of age discrimination, you should speak to an attorney, as your rights may have been violated. By talking to our discrimination attorneys, we can determine if you have a valid claim and advise you as how to best move forward. Our initial consultations are free.

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Kesluk, Silverstein & JacobLos Angeles employment attorneys