Today I overheard a conversation between a department head and a subordinate about a phone screen the subordinate had just performed. It was clear that the candidate had been rejected, for no other reason than his age. The subordinate/interviewer essentially apologized to the department head for wasting time making the call at all, since he could have estimated the candidate's age from his graduation year. The graduation year would put this person in his or her mid-40s, considerably older than the average age of the company's employees.
I was shocked, not only that this would happen, but that these guys would be so comfortable with it that they would openly discuss it in the presence of others. This is a West Coast tech startup that makes all the usual noise about inclusiveness and diversity; until today I believed they were sincere. The fact that the candidate appears to be younger than me has probably made this a bit more personal than it otherwise would have been.
I'm kind of at a loss for how to proceed. I'm meeting with the division head tomorrow (the boss both of my boss and of the department head), whom I respect and trust. At this point I don't intend to identify the people involved; I'll just tell the story anonymously and feel him out. Basically I don't want to do anything irreversible until I'm able to think about the situation rationally and have weighed my options. At this point I don't really have a solid grasp on what those options are. If anyone would care to share any experience or insights I'd certainly appreciate it.