October 6, 2014
The technology industry has long had the reputation of being dominated by young workers. That reputation has now come under scrutiny from federal and state equal employment opportunity regulators. Those authorities have expressed concern that the tech industry may be engaged in systematic, and illegal, bias against older workers.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has indicated it is concerned about widespread use of potentially illegal screening methods by technology industry companies as they recruit new workers. More specifically, the EEOC believes that some of the job postings and advertisements used by technology companies may reflect illegal bias against older workers.
The EEOC notes that technology sector job postings are commonly directed toward “recent grads” and “new grads”. These targeted employment advertisements are in some cases, according to the EEOC, illegal.
Federal law permits employers to target jobs to a specific age group only when there is a demonstrable job need connected to the age-specific targeting. If an employer wants to target an employment opportunity to younger workers, it must provide a factual basis indicating why youth is necessary to perform the job duties effectively.
Many businesses prefer to use younger workers for a variety of reasons. Younger workers are often less expensive, willing to work for lower wages and making less frequent use of employer-provided benefits such as health insurance.
Younger workers are also preferred by some employers as they are generally willing to work longer hours than their older counterparts. In industries, such as the technology sector, which have a high concentration of young workers, younger employees are often viewed as a better social fit for the existing work force.
Although employers may prefer younger workers for understandable business and social reasons, those reasons may not be sufficient to justify age-specific targeting during recruitment. It is not enough to demonstrate why younger workers are preferable. Instead, employers must be able to show why specific jobs require younger employees.
Instead of using postings that seek “new grads” or “recent grads” enterprises should indicate that the posted position is an “entry level position”. Another generally permissible option is to indicate in the job posting that “no experience is required”.
Preference for younger workers in the technology sector may be understandable, but it may not be legal. Technology companies should examine their hiring practices and procedures to ensure that they do not involve illegal age discrimination.