Employers know that the law prohibits discrimination against some job candidates on the basis of age. Despite clear protections, age discrimination is a real problem.
The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and California's employment laws protect workers and job candidates over the age of 40. These statutes allow Californians to sue if employers subject them to age discrimination.
According to recent investigative reporting, California apparently has an above-average rate of age discrimination. While this may reflect a relatively unique cultural aspect of Silicon Valley, it is nevertheless illegal.
One 60-year-old California executive described his search for a new position in an interview with Reuters. After numerous promising interviews, he consistently saw Silicon Valley companies hiring less-experienced candidates instead - all of them significantly younger than him. Eventually, this executive undertook a radical makeover, shaving his hair and dressing in stereotypically younger clothes. He landed a job after his next interview.
In 2010, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing reported around 3,700 complaints of age discrimination - around 20 percent of total complaints. Only retaliation claims ranked higher. The federal EEOC office reported an even higher proportion of age discrimination claims - more than most other large states, including New York. While age discrimination appears to be one of the most common concerns about employees in California, national data shows that it is one of the rarest complaints in the country as a whole.
All of this suggests that California, for all its virtues, does have a cultural problem with age discrimination. Dramatic makeovers should never be necessary to land a good job: discrimination laws exist for a reason and employees should take advantage of those protections.
An experienced California employment discrimination lawyer can help determine whether an age discrimination claim exists.
Source: Reuters, "Silicon Valley's dirty secret - age discrimination," Sarah McBride, Nov. 27, 2012