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.