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I am a freelance software developer. I have just received an email describing a possible position in Switzerland. Among the requirements, all others for technical knowledge & skills, was this:

Graduated in the last 5 – 10 years

Is this legal in Switzerland? My first thought was ageism, but then I realized that they (cleverly?) do not explicitly say that.

Perhaps they think that anyone who graduated before 10 years ago might not have been taught the necessary skills? (and, they don't care if they have acquired them in industry, rather than university)

It certainly smacks of ageism to me, but I wonder if someone could actually succeed with a discrimination case in a Swiss court.

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    You realise you can study a degree at any age in Switzerland, right? – Studoku Nov 19 '20 at 11:20
  • As, indeed, one can in almost any country. What point are you trying to make here ? (and why did someone upvote your comment (and downvote my question, not that both are necessarily the same)( – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 19 '20 at 18:46
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    So a person of any age can have a recent degree, correct? – Studoku Nov 19 '20 at 19:50
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    Still, the effect of the requirement it to disproportionately impact older applicants. – Eric S Nov 19 '20 at 22:12
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This kind of indirect age discrimination is probably legal in Switzerland since even direct age discrimination is effectively* legal.

In 2017, the Federal Council (Swiss executive) proposed rejecting a motion to prohibit age discrimination in job offers, which the National Council (Swiss legislative lower house) later let expire. Noting that only about 10% of online Swiss job postings explicitly or implicitly discriminated by age, they reasoned that (my translation):

Prohibiting the inclusion of an age limit in job offers would place barriers on entrepreneurial liberty which would be disproportional with respect to the practical situation.

*Note: The constitution does in fact prohibit age discrimination, but at least in the employment field, there's basically no implementing legislation or sanctions which renders the clause dead in practice. For specifics, I can see a deep and time-consuming research rabbit-hole here, which I'm going to avoid for now.

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It's almost certainly legal and is commonplace in much of the world- especially in technology-related fields.

There is a legitimate reason for a recent degree in a changing field such as Computer Science. A degree from 2019 would have covered very different topics than one from 2009, which would be unrecognisable from one from 1999.

While I agree it is more likely that valid applicants will be young (under 35), there is no reason to believe this was the intention. For this to be illegal it would have to be done with the puropse of deterring older applicants.

If you're still convinced it's illegal and want to spend time and money on this, lawyer up.

If you're looking for advice on how to be considered anyway, I know for a fact this has been asked on Workplace before.

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  • "If you're still convinced it's illegal and want to spend time and money on this, lawyer up" - Whoa!! Did I really came across as if I cared? With my experience, I have zero problem picking up gigs, even in covid times. My question really only was whether this is legal in Switzerland, nothing more – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 20 '20 at 13:16
  • Also, "I know for a fact this has been asked on Workplace before" - citation needed ;-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 20 '20 at 13:18
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    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica Here you go. I know because I'm the one that asked it. – Studoku Nov 20 '20 at 14:03
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    I'd argue against the assumption that "it's almost certainly legal" - it of course depends on jurisdiction, and I have no idea what Swiss law has to say about that, but for example the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explicitly asserts (in eeoc.gov/prohibited-employment-policiespractices) that "It is illegal for an employer to publish a job advertisement that shows a preference for or discourages someone from applying for a job because of his/her [..] age", and lists advertisements seeking "recent college graduates" as an example for that. – Peteris Nov 20 '20 at 18:53
  • Forthermore, I'd also argue that the statement "For this to be illegal it would have to be done with the puropse of deterring older applicants." is utterly false, employment discrimination laws generally (again, jurisdiction matters of course) prohibit discrimination as such, even if it's a side effect of some other goal - in certain cases bone fide requirements allow to explicitly (and even intentionally) discriminate, but thase are the exception to the general rule. Also, the burden of proof to show whether a policy is not discriminatory often is on the employer, not on the claimant. – Peteris Nov 20 '20 at 19:01
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People can attend University at (almost) any age

While most people complete their first degree in their early twenties, some do not get higher education until much later in life. The oldest graduate with a first time bachelor’s degree that I am aware of was in her early 90s.

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    But, I am fairly sure that there is a bell curve. Would you not agree that this seems** like ageism. I do offer the defence that they could be looking for education in some recently discovered methodologies. But, ageism or not, the actual question is simply whether a job description with such wording is legal in Switzerland. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 20 '20 at 10:20

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