In employment ads in New York and across the country, a new term is being used by employers who are apparently seeking younger applicants. Rather than asking for "new grads" or "young blood," which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says is illegal and in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers are now asking for "digital natives."
An author coined this term in 2001. He defined a digital native as someone who grew up immersed in technology so that his or her first language was that of computers and the Internet. According to the author, a "digital immigrant" who was someone who learns this digital language, but has a foot stuck in the past. The 1990s started a new digital age during which many employers sought young and tech-savvy individuals because they thought they needed their help to succeed in the new environment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that age discrimination complaints have increased since that time. In 1997, 15,785 claims based on age discrimination were filed, compared to 20,588 in 2014. Additionally, most of the claims from 2014 alleged that the job ad was age-biased. While the EEOC has not officially made a determination on whether this particular term is acceptable, a challenge of this nature is not known to have arisen yet. Additionally, some proponents say that the term is not discriminatory and is meant to apply to anyone who is in tune with technology, regardless of age.
Individuals who believe that they are being discriminated against due to a protected status may choose to discuss the specifics of their case with an employment law attorney. Federal protections exist for individuals who are 40 years of age or older who meet the other requirements of an age discrimination claim.