Federal and State Law Prohibits Age Discrimination in Employment, Even in Traditionally “Young” Industries.

nao-at-work-63576bb6-da89-4158-bacf-de83b38abac0.jpgIn 2007, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs at a startup workshop at Stanford University about “the importance of being young and technical.” Zuckerberg, who was 22 years old at the time, went on to say that “young people are just smarter.” He cited attributes like “simpler lives,” which would allow younger employees to devote more time to their jobs. Age discrimination has long been a serious issue in the technology industry. The question of whether maintaining a young, energetic workforce–at the cost of losing older, more experienced employees–is ultimately to a company’s benefit is something that tech industry analysts can discuss. Refusing to hire someone solely on the basis of his or her age is often against both state and federal law. This problem is not limited to the tech industry but occurs in many industries all over the country. As the tech industry expands into places like New Jersey, however, the way in which some tech companies proudly tout their “youth” bears scrutiny.

Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers may not discriminate against employees in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment based on the person’s age. 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). This includes limiting job openings to a particular age group, either expressly or by using terms like “new or recent graduates preferred.” The ADEA, however, only applies to workers who are at least 40 years old. 29 U.S.C. § 631. It therefore might not prohibit age discrimination based on a determination that a person is too young. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) also prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(a).

The tech industry, in California’s Silicon Valley and elsewhere, appears to value youth as much as, if not more than, the movie industry in Hollywood or the fashion industry in New York City. This has manifested itself in a variety of ways, from a general lack of “graybeards” to awkward work environments for the older tech workers who do manage to find jobs. It also includes multiple instances of overt age discrimination, such as the sort of job listings mentioned earlier that discourage older job seekers, either by directly stating an age limit or using phrases like “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.” A job advertisement using that phrase led to a settlement, which did not include any monetary penalties, between Facebook and California employment regulators in 2013.

A lawsuit against Twitter, which operates one of the largest social media services after Facebook, alleges that the company fired the plaintiff solely on the basis of his age. The 57-year-old plaintiff claims in his complaint that the defendant placed him on its “critical talent” list and rewarded him with additional stock options for exemplary job performance. Six months later, he claims, it terminated him without warning and with no prior indication of any job performance issues. The plaintiff’s supervisor allegedly made a “critical remark” about his age, and all of the other employees in similar positions were “substantially younger” than him. The individuals hired to replace the plaintiff, he states, were all in their 20s and 30s. He is asserting several causes of action under state law.

If you need to speak to an employment discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Former Sales Executive Obtains $11.6 Million Verdict in Wrongful Termination Lawsuit, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 12, 2014
Federal Law Protects Workers in New Jersey, New York, and Elsewhere from Unlawful Age Discrimination, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, January 14, 2014
AARP Survey Finds Most Older Americans in New York and Nationwide Have Experienced Age Discrimination at Work, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, June 18, 2013
Photo credit: Marc Seil [CC BY-SA 2.0 DE], via fotocommunity.

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