Google Hit With Class Action Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Silicon Valley has been an unapologetic apartheid state for young workers for years but this could be about to change.

A class action age discrimination lawsuit was filed against Google, Inc. on April 22 by software engineer Robert Heath who was interviewed but not hired for a position at Google in 2011 when he was 60-years-of-age. The lawsuit alleges Google has demonstrated a pattern and practice of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

According to the lawsuit, Google’s workforce is “grossly disproportionate” with respect to age. The lawsuit asserts the median age of the 28,000 employees who worked for Google in 2013 was 29.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor reports the median age for computer programmers in the United States is 42.8 and the median age for software developers is 40.6. According to the lawsuit, Google had 53,000 employees in 2014 and revenues of approximately $66 billion.

Google’s position with respect to age discrimination is completely inexplicable. The company last year made a public commitment to increase race and gender diversity in its workforce, and released workforce statistics relating to those characteristics. But Google was completely silent with respect to  age and did not release age-related statistics. It was as if Google’s position was that age is not a factor in workforce diversity.

Its not like Google can claim ignorance of age discrimination laws.  The California Supreme Court in 2010 reinstated an age discrimination lawsuit filed by former Google executive Brian Reid  finding that Reid had presented sufficient evidence of age discrimination in his firing by Google in 2002.  Among other things, Reid said Google colleagues referred to him as an “old man,” and “old guy,” and “old fuddy-duddy” and joked that his CD jewel case office placard should be an “LP” or long-playing record. Google subsequently settled the case out of court.

Heath, of Boynton Beach, FL, states that he was contacted and encouraged to apply to Google by a company recruiter who said Google was embarking on its largest recruiting/hiring campaign in its history. The recruiter said Google was looking for engineers with coding experience in the C++ and Java computer languages.  Heath holds a master certification in Java, scoring higher than 96 percent of all previous test takers for that certification, and a master certification in C ++, scoring higher than 89 percent of all previous test takers for that certification. He has more than 30 years of experience working with C++ and Java.

Heath said his initial interview was a telephone interview with an engineer who called ten minutes late and was barely fluent in English. Moreover, the engineer insisted on using used a speaker phone that did not function well.  Heath was asked to write a short program in code.  The engineer insisted that Heath read the program aloud. Even though the engineer “seemed not to understand” what Heath was reading, he refused to allow Heath to email the program to him or use Google Docs.

“[B]y conducting the interview as described above, Google intentionally did not allow Mr. Heath to communicate or demonstrate his full technical abilities, and did not have a sincere interest in hiring Mr. Heath,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction ordering Google to adopt a valid, non-discriminatory method for hiring employees, to post notices concerning its duty to refrain from age discrimination, and to pay Heath and members of the class damages.

The case is Robert Heath v. Google Inc., 5:15-ev-01824 (4/22/2015).  It was filed in U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Jose, California.

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