A former Twitter employee is suing the social media company, alleging it fired him because he was too old. The man was 57 at the time he was fired. He had surgery to remove his kidney stones, and he was fired a month later with no warning. The lawsuit alleges that the employee saved Twitter millions of dollars during a company expansion, and also met all performance review standards before he was fired. He was replaced by workers who were in their 20s and 30s.
The former employee was a manager of Twitter’s data center deployment. He alleges that during the firing, his supervisor made a critical remark about his age. He also says that Twitter refused to accommodate his needs after his surgery, and even assigned him additional work while he was trying to recover.
Twitter is denying the claims in the lawsuit and promises to vigorously defend the company against the false claims. An attorney for the former employee says he tried repeatedly to reach an agreement with Twitter in the months before the lawsuit, but was unable to reach an agreement.
For anyone who follows news of Silicon Valley’s hiring and firing practices, a claim of age discrimination should not be surprising. Silicon Valley has a reputation of being one of the most ageist places in America. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg famously told a college audience in 2007 that “Young people are just smarter.”
Twitter isn’t the only company in Silicon Valley that has been accused of age discrimination. Google reached a multi-million dollar settlement with a computer scientist who was fired in 2004 at age 54, after being called “an old fuddy-duddy”, “obsolete”, and “too old to matter”. Other Silicon Valley companies have been reprimanded for posting job listings with the words “new grad” in the description, which could be considered code for young. Facebook settled a case in 2013 with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department over an attorney job listing that noted “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred”. In fact, the problem has become so prevalent that plastic surgeons are reportedly doing a booming business in the area with many tech workers who want to appear youthful, and even twenty-somethings are reportedly frequently looking for touch-ups.
Although ageism may be very common in Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Yahoo, it’s illegal. Federal and state laws provide that employers cannot discriminate against employees or potential employees because of their age, if they are over 40. Discrimination means negative treatment when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, pay, layoffs, and other terms or conditions of employment. It is also illegal to harass someone in the workplace because of his or her age. A simple joke or comment about age isn’t illegal, but if it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment, this is illegal. Therefore, a one-time instance in which a supervisor called an employee a geezer is probably not illegal, but if the supervisor repeatedly chastised the employee with remarks about being old, and told jokes and made comments about the employee’s age on a regular basis, that is probably illegal.
If you have been discriminated against on the basis of age in the workplace, you should contact an employment attorney. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that a person should be evaluated on the basis of their work performance, not their age. If you have experienced age discrimination at work, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland age discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with clients throughout the Oakland – San Francisco Bay area, and will be happy to speak with you about your case. Call her today for your free consultation.