Randy Baker, 55, was an executive vice president and member of the company's management committee until he was fired in February, according to a suit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court. He is seeking $18.5 million in lost compensation and damages.
The lawsuit names Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison and executive vice president Gary Bloom as defendants. Ellison, who also is 55, allegedly made "derogatory comments" to Baker about his age, and the age of Oracle managers in general.
Baker was demoted in late January and fired the next month, shortly after comments relating to age were made, the lawsuit said. Baker, who could not immediately be reached for comment, claims in the suit that he was told he was being demoted because Oracle "had decided to make a change in the leadership in (the) support (division)." A 40-year-old worker took over his old job.
Oracle officials didn't return calls for comment. The company's outside public relations firm said Oracle's policy is not to comment on lawsuits.
Proving age discrimination is extremely difficult, according to Bill Payson, an advocate who heads SeniorTechs.com, a Web site that helps older technology workers find jobs.
Without commenting specifically on Oracle or Baker's suit, Payson said the tech industry has a reputation for favoring younger workers. "The amount of age discrimination is absolutely outrageous," he said. "In the high-tech industry, if you're over 35, you're over the hill."
"The Internet changes very rapidly," Payson said. "This affects youngsters and oldsters. You can be outdated long before you're old?just because technology is changing a lot faster than you are."
Baker joined Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle in 1993. He most recently served as executive vice president of the customer service and support division, overseeing units such as Business Online, Oracle's touted application hosting business.
According to the suit, Baker told Bloom and Ellison in 1999 that he planned to retire in August 2000. Although he claims he was told he could work up until his retirement, he was demoted and subsequently fired.
Oracle cancelled all of his benefits, including health insurance for his family, according to the lawsuit. He also was given a fiscal year 2000 compensation plan that was "substantially reduced" and that differed from what the company had promised him a year earlier. In addition, he was informed that his unvested stock options would be "null and void."
Baker is seeking $300,000 for promised bonuses or commissions for his work from June 1, 1999 through his termination date, as well as for approximately $16 million that represents the value of his stock options at the time of his last day.