Older employees in Silicon Valley may face age discrimination

Tech start-ups in Silicon Valley are known for their laid-back, inclusive culture and strength in innovation. But some workers and employment law experts in the region are noticing an unexpected side effect: rising complaints of age discrimination.

For example, one 60-year-old man had founded multiple companies and had exceptional experience and credentials when he was interviewing for CEO positions. He kept getting passed up for younger, less-experienced candidates until he shaved off his grey hair and began to dress more casually, emulating younger applicants.

Technology companies may assume that because the dot-com era rose only recently, only younger workers have the skills and the experience to cut it in the industry. With technology moguls in their twenties rising to prominence in the wake of icons like Mark Zuckerberg, younger appears to be better for some investors. Employees and applicants as young as 40 are feeling the effects.

However, this attitude has several problems. First of all, it discounts the possibility that older workers have the same up-to-the-minute skills and training as younger ones. And it ignores areas where they are likely to excel, such as management.

It also directly contradicts part of what makes Silicon Valley so appealing to entrepreneurs and innovators: the idea that people can get ahead even if they don't fit into a mold. The former misfits who have found a home in Silicon Valley may unwittingly be making other people - in this case, older employees - feel like outsiders.

If you believe you have been discriminated against or treated unfairly in the workplace because of your age - or any other protected characteristic like gender, race or disability status - consider speaking with an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: Financial Post, "Silicon Valley's dirty secret -- age discrimination," Sarah McBride, Nov. 27, 2012

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