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Labels open to age discrimination claims

by on May 6, 2015

Following on from our discussion of a reduction of age discrimination claims in the UK:  In the US, where age discrimination applies to those over 40, a recent article has highlighted the issue of job adverts moving from describing positions as suitable for ‘new grads’ to using the term ‘digital native’.

This piece in Fortune quotes Facebook Mark Zuckerberg’s now infamous statement that young people are smarter – of course he was only 22 at the time and it would be interesting to know how he feels at the ripe old age of 30 with a birthday coming up!  With increasing concern about age discrimination issues in hi-tech industries in which many big name brands have seen claims made against them, it is perhaps not surprising that there is continued scrutiny of the way in which job adverts are worded.  What is perhaps more surprising is that these companies appear not to have realised that the trendy new generational labels are just as problematic as ‘old fashioned’ terms.

Fortune suggest that a quick search on job website found ‘dozens’ of examples of companies using the term.  I was rather skeptical the same would be true in the UK but it didn’t take me more than two minutes searching on one well known job site to find several examples even though the wording was sometimes hedged.  For example in one case the job advert started: “Digital natives must read this message”.  Though another clearly listed the need for “A digital native, adept at learning new software and applications”.

The fortune article suggests that many of the adverts are simply using the phrase as a short hand for meaning up to date with emerging technology, though I suspect this is an retrospective justification which neatly gets around the age stereotyping involved.  As yet, no claims have been brought regarding this particular language, though I would hope companies will soon wise up to the issues the ‘digital native’ label creates for all age groups.

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