The music and entertainment industries often speak about the cultural phenomenon known as the "27 Club." It refers to numerous musicians, actors and other famous performers passing away at the age of 27. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are among the most famous members of this dubious club. Now it appears workers in the tech industry are being read their last rites at a similar age.
Age discrimination in the tech industry is nothing new. Unfortunately a lot of it is concentrated in the Bay Area. Santa Clara-based Intel has been under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2016. The company laid off 17,000 workers as part of restructuring that year, according to an investigation by The Oregonian. The problem was that the median age of those who lost their jobs was 49. The median age of the remaining workforce after the layoffs was 42. The investigation is still ongoing four years later.
Google was involved in a similar case. A class-action lawsuit accused Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, of discriminating against applicants over the age of 40. The company initially denied the allegation, saying the 227 applicants simply did not possess the technical aptitude for the jobs. Google settled the case last July for $11 million. Each class member received about $35,000. But most are still having difficulties finding jobs in their fields.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. It specifically protects workers age 40 and over from discrimination by companies with 20 or more employees. The law, however, does not seem to deter ageism among tech companies.
The median age of Facebook employees was 28 years old in 2017, according to data compiled by Statista. LinkedIn and Salesforce had median ages of 29. Google was 30. The median age of Apple, Amazon and Yahoo employees was 31. The median age of the entire American workforce is 42.
Tech workers are considered "over the hill" by age 30. Meanwhile the average age of successful entrepreneurs in tech, aerospace and other high-growth industries is 40, according to data compiled by Carnegie Mellon Professor Vivek Wadhwa. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg disagrees. He reportedly said, “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30?”
Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia at age 35. He answered a Quora question in 2013 asking what Silicon Valley workers plan to do when they reach age 35 and become expendable. Wales wrote, "The premise of the question is wrong. A better question might be: How can we in the tech community make sure that unusual success at a very early age is not mistakenly thought to be the norm?"
Since Generation Z entered the workforce a few years ago, there are now four generations of workers in the United States. Workers over 65 are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce, according to AARP. Some continue working into their later years because they simply want to stay involved in something. Others want to delay Social Security to increase payouts. Despite their desire to work, the job search is difficult.
The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act was introduced in the Senate in 2019. The bipartisan bill would amend the 1967 ADEA to make age discrimination complaints easier to prove in a court of law. Litigants would be allowed to utilize any and all admissible evidence to prove their claims. The bill would overturn the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. which set a very high bar to prove age discrimination in the workplace.
Eco Office project managers understand that Millennials typically favor open office workstations while workers over 50 prefer private cubicles. We've designed office layouts for diverse companies looking to satisfy and retain workers of all ages. Give us a call today at 408-437-1700 to discuss your office design and layout plans.