Telsa under pressure over age discrimination

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Technology and manufacturing giant Telsa has found itself at the centre of an age-discrimination lawsuit after one 69-year-old employee claimed he was isolated and unfairly let go.

Senior citizen Thomas Flessner launched the lawsuit earlier this month after being fired in February – it alleges he was subjected to years of “unfair comments and criticism about his age” before he was finally dismissed.

“The younger engineers were not criticized for the speed of their work by [supervisor Paul] Edwards even though they did not accomplish their projects any faster than plaintiff,” reads the lawsuit.

The former materials engineer also says his supervisor singled him out by repeatedly cancelling meetings and ignoring contributions.

Flessner also claims that, after taking time off for heart surgery, he was told by a supervisor: “These guys are gunning for you.”

A representative from Telsa declined to comment on the case but promised the company was focussed on maintaining a fair and equal workplace.

“While we aren’t commenting on the specifics of this litigation, we are committed to upholding a discrimination-free workplace,” they said.

Silicon Valley has long been under pressure to improve workplace diversity but few firms seem to address age, choosing instead to focus on race and gender.

Last year, Backchannel’s Steven Levy noted how few of the diversity reports that tech companies have started to produce mention age or comment on how to hire and retain employees not born in the 80’s or 90’s.

Stephanie Clare, chief executive of Age Concern New Zealand, told HRM that older employees are a valuable asset in the workplace.

“Older workers have often had years of experience in a particular role and can be a source of great knowledge for younger people learning their craft,” she stressed. “Even if the technology, systems and input of a role changes dramatically, the fundamentals can remain the same and older people can pass this information on.”

Clare also warned that employers would be adversely affected if they failed to create an age-diverse workforce.

“Ultimately, any business or organisation will only reach its maximum potential if it harnesses all the positive characteristics of each employee,” she told HRM. “To find these positive characteristics decision makers must involve their older employees in every way they can. If they don’t they will miss opportunities to develop.”

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