Silicon Valley: Home of tech innovations and age discrimination?

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Mark Zuckerberg could be the poster child for tech industry success in Silicon Valley. He is the epitome of an ambitious, free-thinking innovator willing to work around the clock to help develop the next big business venture.

Because of Mr. Zuckerberg's success, and the success of many other young tech leaders, some companies have found themselves caught up in this stereotype. As a result, qualified candidates that do not fit within this label are accusing these companies of focusing on an applicant's age instead of his or her qualifications when making hiring decisions.

Recent publications by Reuters and Forbes magazines are pointing to a startling trend throughout Silicon Valley: age discrimination. Investors in new tech businesses are blatantly stating they prefer young chief executives over older, more experienced candidates. Not only are these investors potentially setting companies up to fail by potentially putting inexperienced CEOs in office, but they are also putting companies in a difficult situation.

Companies that follow their investors' advice on this matter may be violating the law. It is illegal in the United States for a company to make employment decisions based on a candidate's age. Such practices are considered a form of employment discrimination.

Laws against age discrimination in California

The primary federal law that provides protections against age discrimination is ADEA, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This law protects those over the age of 40 from being treated negatively based solely on their age. It applies specifically to employers who have 20 or more employees. Employers are not allowed to:

  • Hire or fire an employee based on his or her age
  • Withhold a promotion or compensation based on age
  • Retaliate against an employee who complains about age discrimination

In addition to these federal protections, California state law also protects against practices of age discrimination under The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Generally, employers of five or more employees are required to abide by FEHA. Employers found in violation of this law can be held liable to compensate the victim for a variety of costs, including back pay, attorney's fees, up to $150,000 in emotional distress and potential punitive damages.

Navigating through a discrimination suit can be complicated. Those who wish to file a claim must first complete paperwork with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). This agency will then investigate and prosecute the case.

If you suspect that you were withheld a promotion or employment based on your age, the employer may have violated the law. Contact an experienced California discrimination attorney to discuss your situation and better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.