Fascinating. I came across this Dave Winer story of tech hiring and firing in 1985's Silicon Valley via the money quote:
...every time a company hires someone who is not a young male, they run the risk that the new hire isn't there to work, rather is there to scam you.since from that quote I wondered "what the hell planet is this author on?"
Then I read the story. And blow me down if I didn't end up at least partially agreeing with the author. Go read the whole thing.
Commenter sep332 clarifies that the problem described (an older tech worker using his age to file a discrimination claim after being fired) isn't actually about age, sex or anything in particular:
The laws about protected classes are not about classes of people. Anyone can claim that they were discriminated against for gender reasons, not just women. White people can claim they were targeted because of their race, etc. So the people who couldn't realistically claim discrimination are the people who are most like the rest of the company. [my emphasis] I mean, if women are the majority of your company, then it would be hard for a woman to claim gender discrimination.In the tech sector, the majority of your company are likely to be young, male, and (in Silicon Valley) a mix of white, Chinese and Indian in race; probably also straight although I have known a couple of small firms where that was not the case. If you're middle-aged, female, transgender, black, Inuit, Pacific Islander or Hispanic then you're almost certainly in a clear minority and hence possibly a "protected class".
As Winer notes, in a small struggling tech firm if someone comes at you with a discrimination lawsuit then you haven't the money or time to fight it. Unless it's a complete no-brainer (an 18 year old white male alleging discrimination on the grounds of inability to get out of bed) your best option is to pay up and move on. So what do you do when you have the risk of recruiting people who can sit back and do nothing while being practically un-fireable? Simply minimise the risk of recruiting them, by avoiding anyone who is in a good position to do this to you.
An ironic "well done" to everyone who has pushed through these employment laws, and a special raspberry to everyone who has filed (or backed) an abusive lawsuit exploiting these laws. You've screwed over everyone in the tech sector who's not a young male.