Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), singled out the problem of virulent age discrimination in the high tech industry during a talk Tuesday before the National Press Foundation.
“Some of our offices have made it a priority in looking at age discrimination in the tech industry,” she told journalists during a question and answer period.
Age discrimination in Silicon Valley has been open and flagrant for years, and has been the subject of numerous articles in both this blog and national publications. A class action age discrimination lawsuit was filed against Google, Inc. on April 22 by software engineer Robert Heath who was interviewed but not hired for a position there in 2011 when he was 60-years-of-age. The lawsuit alleges Google has demonstrated a pattern and practice of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Vontrell-Monsees observed that 70% of IT staff surveyed by Information Week said they’ve witnesses or experienced age discrimination. In addition, she said, 42% of age 50+ workers in the high tech industry consider age to be a liability in their career – more than double the rate of other industries. She also pointed to job advertisements in the tech industry for “digital natives,” “recent” or “new” graduates or “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred”. She said that “there’s no question age discrimination is a challenge for older workers.”
Vontrell-Monsees’ address is significant because the EEOC has ignored an unprecedented increase in age discrimination claims that began with the Great Recession. In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that the number of age discrimination claims jumped from 19,103 in 2007 to an all-time high of 24,582 in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of lawsuits filed by the EEOC with age discrimination claims declined from a modern-day high of 50 in 2006 to a low of seven lawsuits in 2013. This despite the fact that age discrimination catapults older workers into long-term unemployment, forced retirement, and poverty or near poverty in their old age. Having acknowledged the problem, one can only hope the EEOC will now do something about it.
Here are some of other points made by Ventrell-Monsees in her address:
- Unemployment for people aged 50 and older more than doubled to 7.6%from 2007 to 2011.
- Older workers remain unemployed for the longest periods – 36 weeks in 2011 compared to 26 weeks for younger job seekers.
- More than one-third of all unemployed older workers in 2011 had been unemployed for more than a year.
- The percentage of age discrimination cases filed by women jumped from 32 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2013. She added that proving age discrimination in court is difficult.