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Google’s Age Discrimination Settlement--Again

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Google’s Age Discrimination Practices Date back to 2004, when it first settled out of court.

Sacramento, CAWisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age, at least not with Google. If it did, Google would have wizened up a decade ago, when the courts warned the Internet giant of its “systematic practice of discrimination" involving job applicants who were age 40 and over. Instead, it recently shelled out $11 million to settle a California age discrimination class action lawsuit.

Google was first accused of age discrimination in 2004, and the case was settled outside of court. The settlement amount is unknown. This current settlement dates back to an age discrimination lawsuit filed by Robert Heath in 2015, which developed into a class-action lawsuit as more people came forward against Google’s employment practices.

When interviewed by a Google recruiter, Heath was told that he would be a “great candidate” but during a phone call with a Google engineer, the interviewer assumed the word "byte" meant eight bits, which Heath translated as age bias, according to his lawsuit. (Modern computer systems use eight-bit byes, while older ones could have bytes between six to 40 bits.)

The federal class action continued with software engineer Cheryl Fillekes as lead plaintiff. She was 47 years old when first interviewed by Google, and three more times from 2007 to 2014. During one interview, she claims she was told to submit a new resume with the dates of her college graduation so interviewers could see how old she was. Fillekes was never hired, despite her “highly pertinent qualifications and programming experience”.

"Age discrimination is an issue that needs to be addressed in the tech industry, and we’re very pleased that we were able to obtain a fair settlement for our clients in this case,” said Daniel Low, a lawyer for Fillekes, in an email to Bloomberg.

Google argued that Fillekes and other job seekers in the lawsuit didn’t demonstrate the technical aptitude required for the job, but staff interviewers found them “Googley” enough to be a good fit for the company. The search giant also claims that it never intentionally discriminated against Fillekes, or any of the other plaintiffs, because of their age, and noted that it has strong policies in place against all forms of discrimination. A U.S. District Court judge, however, said that having policies in place does not mean a company is innocent of the charges.

The median age of U.S. workers is 40, but the median age of Google employees in 2017 was 30, a decade younger. Federal law makes it a crime for companies with more than 20 employees to discriminate against an applicant or employee over age 40.

Google Settlement Requirements

After lawyer fees of $2.75 million, 227 plaintiffs who joined the class action will collect an average of $35,000 each, according to Bloomberg. The settlement also requires Google to train employees and managers about age bias, create a recruiting subcommittee that will focus on age diversity for the relevant positions, ensure that its marketing collateral reflects age diversity, adequately investigate any age bias complaints relating to the relevant positions and survey departing employees about potential discrimination.

Age Discrimination on the Rise

Age discrimination in the workplace is still problematic, and some experts refer to it as an “open secret” age bias allegations are likely to rise, particularly in the tech industry (Intel, Oracle and Facebook have faced age discrimination lawsuits) as employees stay in the workforce longer than ever before for a variety of reasons, including high healthcare costs, inadequate retirement savings or simply because they like to work.
The settlement is Case No. 5:15-cv-01824-BLF.


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