Weekly Recap: Google, Apple, HP and Other Silicon Valley Technology Companies Facing Multiple Age Discrimination Lawsuits And the Constitutionality of California’s new Age Protection Law

In the last several months, our attorneys report extremely busy filings of age discrimination lawsuits against technology companies in California. The most notorious company Hewlett Packard (“HP”) has been sued 28 times since mid-2013. Along with HP, Cisco (11), Apple (9) and Google (8) were reported as leading the pack of the companies receiving the most age discrimination complaints. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) keeps track of these patterns and trends. They believe that companies, especially cutting edge, technology and consulting firms are trying to make their workforces younger for reasons such as company culture, lower salaries, and skills that younger workers possess. At the same time, older workers are forced to remain working later than their predecessors because they have to due to lack of savings and a struggling economy. The perfect storm is created when companies continue to merge essentially making certain positions redundant and unnecessary.

As a consequence, government investigation ensue led by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), federally, and the DFEH locally. On the other end, there have been companies that have claimed that California’s lawmakers bowed to special interest groups such as the Screen Actors Guild when they passed the law (AB 1687) a few months ago requiring movie industry websites to remove the ages and birthdays of actors. Their argument focuses on the chilling of free speech and the undermining of public access to factual information, according to IMDb’s federal lawsuit.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on age against employees or contractors aged 40 or older. If proven in court, a plaintiff may recover unlimited monetary damages, including back pay, emotional distress, punitive damages, and any other out-of-pocket loss. Complaints must first be filed with the DFEH within one year from the date of the alleged unlawful act. They may then be filed in court. FEHA’s federal counterpart is the ADEA which forbids age discrimination against individuals who are 40 or older.

In addition, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and California’s FEHA prohibit employers from discriminating against employees that belong to a “protected class.” Specifically, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate, allow harassment of, or retaliate against certain individuals in their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of their age. Although Title VII and FEHA align on most types of discrimination, they are different in their applicability. One item in which the two laws are different is that Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 individuals in a year, while FEHA applies to California employers with only 5 employees in a year. Moreover, in the last year the California legislature passed additional laws expanding this reach to enable most lawsuits to be filed against smaller employers. EEOC enforces such laws as Title VII.  See these blogs for more examples of how our California attorneys combat employment discrimination in such cities as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Fresno, and Santa Clara.

If you believe that you, or another employee, suffered an employment law matter related to age discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, prompt action to preserve your rights is vital since the statute of limitation is a short one year. Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.