back to article New age discrim row: Accenture, Facebook sued by sales boss for favoring 'new blood'

In January 2016, then-54-year-old Mark Stephens was recruited by Accenture to work as a sales development manager on a project with Facebook, subject to Facebook's approval. He got the job – and then lost it due to age discrimination, or so he claims in a lawsuit filed against the two companies in Austin, Texas, on Monday. "I …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Difficult to stop

    As a 'mature' worker, I've seen this myself - not usually as blatant, but you know it when you see it (or become a victim)

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Difficult to stop

      Since the average PHB does not understand tech and that most of the ideas in tech have been around since at least the 50s it is easy to understand why they fail for buzzword bingo. Most gray hairs have seen these cycles a couple of times. For example, the cloud is nothing more than a client/server system with the servers being run by another company. Something that is fundamentally not new but only the wrinkle is how it is executed. The list could go on. So the gray hairs, having seen it before, are more likely to ask harder, embarrassing questions about, say, the Cloud; something those still in baby diapers will not do out of ignorance. Thus the gray hairs are a threat to the PHB's ego and that will not be tolerated.

      Also, many of the tech PHBs do not grasp there needs to be a balance between work and life or the staff will burn out quickly. Something most gray hairs have learned, if you want a long, productive career have a good balance from the start.

      1. BillG

        Re: Difficult to stop

        Last year, America's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 18,376 age discrimination complaints. That's down from a high of 24,582 in 2008, when a major financial crisis and recession began.

        That number was 20,857 in 2016. But these numbers only reflect U.S. Federal complaints, not state or local.

        In my experience age discrimination is rampant in tech. But what many companies do before letting someone 45+ go is give them a (false) poor performance report first to justify it. Makes it much more difficult to file a complaint.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Difficult to stop

      if the discrimination were PURELY based on age, I would agree. However, benefit of the doubt suggests several other factors also, not the least of which is the *type* of experience or the tendency to not work as many hours or want too much money. THAT being said, 60 isn't that far away for me. And those who hire me must pay me what I'm worth, and so I'm not willing to accept anything that I'd have quickly accepted 20 years ago [and at a fraction of what I'd earn now].

      Then again, my own claim to fame is that I actually get things DONE, in less time. So as a contractor, paying me twice as much per hour is actually a cost SAVINGS... and that's because I've had a lot of experience, which tells me ahead of time what works, what doesn't, and what's a complete waste of time to try (even if it 'feels' ok). "Been there, done that, better to do it THIS way and get it done."

    3. Palladium

      Re: Difficult to stop

      Ah yes, we do have hiring discrimination laws to prevent this sort of things by enforcing them only when the companies are stupid enough to incriminate themselves. The system is working just fine.

      1. BillG

        LinkedIn FAIL

        If you want an example, look at LinkedIn. Since their Microsoft overlords took charge they've hired 20-something marketing managers to decide the features of the new impending website. Their solution is to make it act like Facebook. So far it's been a total technical and PR disaster.

        From what LinkedIn is saying, the new website will be a spammer's paradise BECAUSE youngsters with limited experience do not understand "unintended consequences".

    4. naive

      Re: Difficult to stop

      Is it not very easy to stop ?. Unless the jobs at a company do involve heavy physical labor, age discrimination can be proven by simple statistics.

      If 45-55 year old people make up 15% of the population, this age group should have a comparable part in the numbers of hours worked.

      The same should go with gender and race discrimination. In case significant deviations can be proven, laws should be put in place enabling to jail higher management and HRM employees based on discrimination charges. Tax deductible fines don't work, the prospect of some time in the slammer will end the invisible and silent discrimination of certain groups, which is rampant in Western society.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Difficult to stop

        If 45-55 year old people make up 15% of the population, this age group should have a comparable part in the numbers of hours worked.

        So what you're saying is that ALL demographic categories (age, colour, religion, gender, sexual proclivities, disability etc) should be evenly represented across all organisational tiers that are large enough for such an approach to be statistically valid. Which then means quotas, and the situation where you might be the best technical candidate, but get turned down not for being an old git as such, but because the company has to hire somebody from a different demographic group to meet the quotas. That is certainly the way that government and BBC thinking is moving, and it is interesting to note that both are inefficient, unproductive discriminatory organisations who spend too much time thinking about how other people should behave, whilst rarely reflecting on their own behaviours in these areas.

        Presumably you'll require sport and art to apply the same rules as business? And (UK example) you're going to find a million men who want to be nurses? Actually, it doesn't matter what they want, you're appearing to suggest that their wishes don't matter.

    5. LucreLout

      Re: Difficult to stop

      As a 'mature' worker, I've seen this myself - not usually as blatant, but you know it when you see it (or become a victim)


      As a dev I always get tech tested far harder than the Millennials to prove that not only can I still cut it, but am at a level of capability that few, if any, of the youngsters have attained. The same people testing me in roles I've accepted, then go oh-so-easy on their own cohort, because they couldn't answer half the questions I was asked, or produce half as good a solution during the test.

      The fact that the only ism that truly matters to us all, is ageism: even the one legged black transgender lesbians will get old. That the millennials are so keen to rush to ageism is going to bite them hard on the arse in the years to come - there's still going to be Gen Xers at the top of most large companies, and the new kids will be looking at 40 year old millennials 10ish years from now as being too far over the hill.

      I'm not trying to suggest that racism, sexism etc don't matter, of course they do, but they affect less than 100% of people, whereas ageism will affect 100% of us.

  2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge


    Facebook, Amazon & Google pick urban areas rather than suburbs for their offices specify because that acts as a youngster filter. Once employees start having kids, they don't want to live in the urban centers and leave. Perfectly legal, but that is why these organizations put their offices in overpriced areas.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Urban

      Well you can't hire women, blacks or immigrants and pay them less - so the only alternative is to hire new grads ..... and pay them less

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Urban

        "and pay them less"

        and get what you paid for. So it's a question, to these Pimply Faced Bosses, do you want a bunch of mooks, licking your boots when you walk through the hall, or do you want people who are willing to say "no" and get things done RIGHT the FIRST time?

        It's amazing how smart the older people seem once you're one of them, heh.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Urban

          What do you care, it's the VC's money.

          Might be nicer to be the boss of a bunch of boot converse high-top licking toadies.

          Personally I would rather be the boss of a bunch of experienced experts who know more than me and get the job done.

        2. JimC

          The Mooks, every time

          The others are lacking a can-do attitude, it being far more important to have a can-do attitude than actually be able to do...

        3. Mad Chaz

          Re: Urban

          I think it's obvious most bosses care more about getting boot licking services rather than people who can get the job done. Especially if they are baby boomers waiting out the last few years before retirement in a boss job where they just have to look good.

  3. Jay Lenovo

    Hard to Believe


    Facebook delivering an application first devised to compare pictures of women as to whether they were "hot or not", promoting an atmosphere of narcissistic exclusion to people not like themselves.

    No russian hacks here, just inherent prejudice.

  4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    When Zuckerberg hits 50

    Facebook HR department will send Zuckerberg a pink slip for is $1/year salaried job and replace him a while later with Zuckerberg offspring #1 on a 50cents/year salary

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone who is the wrong side of sixty all I can say is .....


    Of course I wish no ill will towards such a fine, public spirited company. Facebook is an exemplary model which many would do well to emulate.

  6. cd

    The way a US company put it to me, they wanted a long-term relationship with any new employee.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "a long-term relationship with any new employee"

      one that's easily terminated at the next layoff

      One-sided deals are the worst kind. A win-win always works better, and 65 does *not* mean *retirement* ! It could mean that, but shouldn't, in my opinion, not when people live to be in their 80's.

      (I'll still be working until I'm dead, and then contract out as a ghost, during my "retirement")

      1. onefang

        '(I'll still be working until I'm dead, and then contract out as a ghost, during my "retirement")'

        Ah, so you'll be a bombastic ghost writer, and we can look forward to bombastic bill.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Sometimes it's just the employee that's the problem. We had a hardware manager (very senior manager) who's mantra was "It has to be IBM". They finally fired him and replaced him with a guy even older who didn't subscribe the "IBM only" belief. The new guy looked at other PC makers, printer makers, server companies, etc. The whole deal. We ended up with a mix of hardware with PC's being one brand, printers another, mainframes something else. Saved the company a bundle of cash and headaches. So sometimes age isn't the problem, it's the mindset.

      OTOH, I've been around places where if you're of a certain age, then things started changing. Raises got smaller, performance goals were harder if not impossible. These poor guys and women, were just pushed right out the door and most were quite competent and innovative at what they did.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The way a US company put it to me, they wanted a long-term relationship with any new employee."

      Which is odd since the younger "hotshots" with no kids are far more mobile in terms of employment and therefore far more likely to move on after a relatively short time. Older employs are more likely to want a bit of job security and offer exactly the the requested "long-term relationship"

  7. Winkypop Silver badge

    A new kind of hell

    "He reported to two Facebook employees, one in her 20s, the other age 30 to 40"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think I've been guilty of the opposite...

    ...Preferring mature employees with gravitas over the gushing, simpering adolescents.

  9. DeathSquid

    I suspect the major problem *some* companies have with older workers is that they see through bullshit and prioritise better. If someone asks me to work a string of all-nighters for a totally artificial deadline, my response is going to be "what's in it for me?". My younger self was stupider. It all changed one day when I discovered that the manager got a huge bonus for bringing in a project under time, and the people that pulled the all nighters got nothing. Never again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If someone asks me to work a string of all-nighters for a totally artificial deadline, my response is going to be "what's in it for me?".

      My response is going to be "no", assuming I'm feeling polite of course.

  10. AndrueC Silver badge

    I mis-read that headline as meaning that a chap in his 30s had lost his job to a younger underling.

    As a fifty-one year old I was rather shocked at first :)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Sometime in the '90s, a colleague of mine left his job, to go work for Logica (then one of the UK's Big Names). He was a good developer, with a strong track record both at work and in in open source (with a gnu email address to his name).

      His new employer raised an eyebrow about his being a bit old to be still in development, as opposed to having moved into a "Suit" role.

      He was 28 at the time.

      A/C, just in case.

  11. tony2heads

    Young blood

    Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed could be your role model.

    Think of the children!!

  12. Cuddles Silver badge

    High-tech industry?

    The words "high tech" tend to put me in mind of building computer chips and space rockets and the like. Facebook is an advertising company that happens to run a few servers to host said advertising. It's like describing Tesco as a high-tech industry because the CEO's secretary types up letters on a PC. And it's not as though the person in question has any kind of tech related job regardless of what the company does - he's a middle-manager in marketing.

    Obviously I have no idea whether there was age discrimination here or not, but when a sales management consultant fails to get a job with an advertising company there really is no justification for the words "high tech" being involved at any point.

  13. JLV

    For laughs/tears, try "Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble" by Dan Lyons (dude writing Fake Steve Jobs blog a while back).

    Mind you, it has at least as much to do with stupidly mismanaged new-style IT companies as it does with ageism per se.

  14. cmaurand

    We hired the other guy

    He was a better fit. It was between you and him. It was tough decision. Have you ever heard that? That's age discrimination. They said all the fright words to say it wasn't age discrimination. I'm 61 years old. I lost count of how many times I've heard that one.

    Lately all I can get is helpdesk which pays squat and requires all sorts of knowledge. blecch. I've gone from CTO to peon in 20 years.

    1. LucreLout

      Re: We hired the other guy

      Lately all I can get is helpdesk which pays squat and requires all sorts of knowledge. blecch. I've gone from CTO to peon in 20 years.

      Clearly your skills & experience are being wasted. What a disgrace that there's simply no oversight or policing of the ageism laws. You will, however, laugh last, because you'll be retired right around the time ageism starts to bite the millennials on their soft right-on-unless-youre-old arses. They won't like it a bit, and it will be played for and got.

      Millennials - realise you collectively know fuck all of any value, and that you need to learn from the older wiser people that do, rather than assuming that because we have grey hair we can't code anymore. The fact that we wrote everything they use seems to have escaped them. Oh, except farcebook, which, frankly, isn't very good, isn't very useful, and has the shelf life remaining less than some mainframes.

      Patterns are still patterns, solid is still solid, functional & oop are the same as ever, and this weeks hotshit javascript framework will take us less time to master than it took you to learn the basics.... that its all new to you doesn't mean its all new to us. It isn't. The Cloud isn't anywhere near as difficult as putting together the same shit physically, then configuring it; it just isn't.

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