Age discrimination, "new collar" workers, the perils of employment after 40

Sharyl Attkisson opened with this this morning on “Full Measure”, with a feature on events at IBM.

Persons over 40 working in a high tech environment need to have eyes wide open. IBM alone has purposefully terminated 25,000 such people, seeing significant advantage to reduce the average age of its workforce.

But! But! you shout, doing that is wildly against the law!

Agreed and acknowledged.

But it is happening just the same. Proving age discrimination is a tough go. Many older people prefer not to bother, and just leave.

So if you’re older, and especially if you’re a “techie”, be really careful out there!

Why older workers shouldn’t let technology changes run them out of a job

Age discrimination in the workplace and what you can do to combat it

COVID-19 is not an excuse for age discrimination

Forbes: COVID-19 Layoff Or Pretext For Age Discrimination Against Older Employees?

Manager, 50, loses ‘old school’ hashtag age discrimination case

Thousands of older workers say age discrimination is real

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Sharyl’s “New Collar” piece from earlier today, which inspired this thread, has now hit the internet in its entirety. It was not available online when I posted the OP:

Full Measure: New Collar Workers

Getting “you will be laid off” letter when only age 40 is quite unbelievable.

I remember when experience was important. A company was advertising “experience needed”. Looks like that is no longer a buzz word.

It seems to me that a person might start quality employment with good college fundamentals at about 25+ years. So in 15 years you’re ready to be “hung out” for old age. I’m just trying to figure that one out. But interesting info. :woozy_face:

Some jobs still require experience, but there may be fewer of them. And you can have 8 years of experience at 30, and you’ll cost much less than someone with 18 years of experience at 40.

You can start quality employment at 22 after 4 years of college. Earlier if you’re smart and graduate earlier or drop out.

glad I didn’t go in to tech but in a field where more experience the better…

Part of the issue in Tech (and Tech is honestly too big of an employment sector to talk about as a whole), is that a lot of the older folk did what they had to do to get promoted and get raises, which in the corporate world meant getting certifications and the like, but they weren’t actually learning anything new and applying it day to day. Before the pandemic, that was easy to get away with.

My buddy that is shoulder deep in the network security world has been saying this for years. There was (and still is) a glut of “qualified” and “experienced” people in his world, but they don’t have the actual knowledge and ability required to do the day-to-day work when shit hits the fan. Lots of 45 year olds have tons of great stuff on their resume, but they have no idea how to actually get the dirty work done, partly because everything is changing so fast and they haven’t kept up, and partly because that world was still doing the old fashioned career development by rewarding people with certifications and degrees over actual knowledge and ability. There is a huge reset happening in tech right now. It was brought on by what the pandemic required of IT departments. The requirements to move to a new digital landscape in as quick a timeframe as we had to last year allowed the real cream to rise to the top and showed how weak so many folks in IT really are. Companies are realizing the days of getting a very good, very technical IT professional for $80-120k/yr are over. If you hire several good ones at $165-190k/yr, you can get rid of a lot of dead weight making $100k.


The world is moving & turning over so fast these days that “high tech lay-off over age 40” is normal.

Truly, like you said, take fewer prospects at that high pay rate. Big tech business knows what’s happening. Kick out Tech-worker’s over age 40… Kinda sad situation.

Young people need outstanding University qualification to begin in this very competitive Tech world.

From experience, there are also a lot of people in their 40s who just grew very comfortable and complacent with their daily work. To the point where they missed the bus on training and updating their skills. When everybody had to adapt quickly and change dramatically how we were doing business, had to find innovative solutions to challenges of the new environment, etc. all that just highlighted how behind the curve some had let themselves become.

For having accepted early retirement from a couple of people with 25+ years of service, to be honest that felt like a weight off my shoulders. I cannot say that I was sorry to no longer have to baby sit squeaky wheel people who had let their skill set grow into incompetence and having to re-train them, all the while hearing about how great they were and knew better than anyone how to do things. But the thing is it was not about age only. Some older employees had taken changes in stride the whole time, had kept or expanded their skill sets over time, and we’d never look at getting rid of them.

So yeah, COVID was not really an excuse as much as something that amplified and revealed more clearly who the dead weight were in the company. And I’m not even talking in tech where changes happen much more rapidly.

That said, if these people in tech earned the usual salaries in this field, by their late 40s, they should be FIRE or close. So don’t go feeling too sad about them. :wink:


I remember a manager I had 15 years ago. He said something like that. There were engineers that produced maybe 25% of what a solid engineer would produce. Trouble is to get and retain the really productive ones.

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Yep, BTDT in MegaCorp here in the ATL - when I ER’d and took a buyout 6 years ago there were a handful of folks that I knew really kept our area going (including myself), and this wasn’t uncommon. Tech is one of those areas where you either have what it takes or you don’t, but there’s plenty of skaters.


Sounds like an organizational training failure. On them for not jumping ship earlier, though, and rotting themselves by staying at the company. (I’m probably in this boat myself, so…)

Or were they supposed to invest many unpaid hours living to work rather than working to live?

Definitely. Though, there are also tech jobs that are not in high COL areas. Less easy to stash away as much in those places (the salaries are comparatively lower – there’s less “free” gain to be gleaned from tax sheltering). Though you mention late 40s, which should be more attainable. IDK how 49 is FIRE, seems pretty late to me. Sure, it’s slightly before senior citizen status…

All employees are offered training opportunities. It may be attending conferences, doing in-person or online classes. For conferences, you’re given time off and transportation + lodging + meals reimbursement. For classes, tuition/fees/equipment is paid. Some of them are on the clock (usually on-site), some are off. With pandemic they were all virtual and you’re given up to 3 days per year to take training classes.

Down the line, the decision comes down to whether it is better to invest a few hours into staying relevant or routinely doing your 9-5 presence check while waiting for the eventual cut. I think that boils down to inertia and the decision to settle for good enough while misjudging what good enough looks like from the company’s stand point.

No one with actual knowledge and abilities willing to do the work is losing their jobs in successful industries just because they are over 40. It just so happens that a boat load of people that stink at their jobs are over 40.

This isn’t necessarily true. It does help when trying to get your foot in the door, but employers are quickly realizing now that a well known university diploma does not automatically translate to a good tech employee. Show me a good IT manager and I’ll show you someone that would much rather hire a tech school associates grad with 5 years experience running wires in drop ceilings, setting up servers, and troubleshooting real world problems when those servers go down, than a well known university graduate with 2 years experience on a corporate IT “project management team” that just knows all the buzzwords and lingo required to pass certification tests.


Sometimes it doesn’t make sense for an organization to cultivate employees that don’t put the effort in themselves to stay up-to-date and relevant.

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It depends on the company, and individual departments/ managers. Ours had almost all of the old (>>40) high- value to the company employees leave to other companies in the course of the past year, these are all people that had significant institutional knowledge. While someone ~30 was fired. I’m at a really strange (compared to norm) company, it usually has really low turnover, loads of people 20-30+ yrs at the company.

CovIdiots in management chain that violate company policy make things unworkable during a pandemic – people should know what to expect from the official rules so they can plan accordingly one way or the other, whether it’s going to be Dr. Mypillow or CDC everyone should be on the same page one way or the other, that’s management’s job. Instead you get 100% of the employees with uncertain expectations.
Probably going to be more people choosing to leave after the dust settles.

I’ve worked in tech for 20+ years. I lost count of the number of times my employers have laid off people. I haven’t been laid off myself (yet thankfully).

First of all no big employer sends mass emails to all their employees over 40 years old to say “you’re being laid off because you’re over 40 years old”. No its never that egregious. Nothing close.

Its more likely that they laid off 10,000 employees and among the people laid off people over age 40 are a higher %. Then people claim its age discrimination that causes them to lay off more 40+ age people. There might be some incriminating evidence like an executive once saying the company needs “young blood” or something. But there usually isn’t much more inciminating evidence. Its more ‘circumstantial’ evidence. Big tech companies have lots of lawyers and are generaly not dumb enough to engage in systemic illegal activity. At least not in an obious way that would cause them to lose in court.

Undoubtedly there is age discrimination. I’m sure some people are laid off because of age and no other good reason but thats probably more individual cases and not a company wide problem.
Tech industry does seem to idealize and favor young people to some degree which has a negative side effect to the older workers.
THeres also discrimination against race, martial status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, smokers, obesity, political party, familial status, and fans of the opposing sports team. I’m not sure if age discrimination actually happens more or less often than any other form.

Personally I think a lot of what looks like age discrimination is caused by career progression in wage level, seniority level, job duties and how those correlate to age. Then you take a tech company meritocracy system and do some lay offs and older people end up laid off more. When I was in my 20’s and first started at grade 1 I then moved up to grade 2 then grade 3 then grade 4. I got some great annual reviews. SO I spent time exceeding my grade level and getting promotions. That looks impressive when you do your employee evaluations. Then I plateaued at grade 5 and haven’t moved up for years since. THis doesn’t look very impressive. And the work is higher level and harder and a lot harder to get great reviews and never screw up. Plus I get paid a lot more than a younger low grade engineer. But I’m the same guy with the same skills and aptitudes now as I was then. Its a whole lot easier to get a awesome review when I started and I was doing simple grade 1 work versus the grade 5 stuff I’ve been phoning in for 10 years. However those awesome reviews or lack of may be the basis for layoffs. Its all mertitocracy and “what have you done’ for me lately” mentality. Plus the company tends to do lay offs every 1-3 years as knee jerk reaction to economic cycles.

SO I don’t think they sit down and say lets get rid of the old guys and keep the young ones. They instead say lets do this based on merit. Then you compare a 55 year old grade 5 engineer who had 5 good years theen 1 bad year and a 27 year old engineer who’s been promoted from grade 1-> 2-> 3 and not had a bad year and the 55 year old gets the ax.

Of course “tech” is a vast industry and the situation varies greatly employer to employer. THis is just my anecdotal personal experiences that I see.


Most people I know who are well paid engineers don’t save tons of money and more frequently their financial situation isn’t that impressive. MOre often then not they’re not any closer to FIRE than anyone else. There are certainly a % of us who know how to be frugal and save our money and are doing fine. But theres penty others who are on their 3rd divorce or who are almost broke but used the equity from their home sale to buy a brand new Italian motorcycle.

Also the “usual salaries in the field” are more often closer to $100k then not and we don’t all make 1%'er wages or cash out millions in options like you often hear about. Average wages at Google aren’t representative of average tech wages. Still $100k-150k is very good money.

I’m not saying we should feel too sad for them either since it was their money they pissed away, but don’t assume we’re all millionaires


I just want to clarify that my posts have been more in reference to IT jobs, specifically more complicated ones like network security, at companies that aren’t necessarily Tech companies; not Tech company jobs in particular.

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You have less aptitide now as the brain changes as it ages. But you likely have more knowledge and/or skills.

Our society has decided age is a protected class because it doesn’t make sense to fire everyone just due to the natural changes.

Maybe it would make more sense to pay younger people more and then keep wages flat rather than the “career progression” in wages? though I don’t know that they’d save more in the early years. It’d be a hard sell to changeover from the current way things are.