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Google Settles $11 Million Class Action Ageism Suit

SubverseJul 29, 2019, 9:45:25 PM

By Tarik Johnson 

Google has settled a lawsuit claiming that the company discriminates based on age in its hiring practices. Google paid a total of eleven million dollars to more than 200 jobseekers who were over 40 years old at the time of application. The main plaintiff in the case, Robert Heath who was 60 years old at the time of filing, claimed he had highly-pertinent qualifications and experience, and a Google recruiter even deemed him a “great candidate.” The lawsuit said that in 2013, the median age of Google employees was 29, but the typical computer programmer in the US is over 40.

On February 8th, 2011, Mr. Heath received a technical phone interview from a Google engineer which was behind schedule. In the filing, Heath claimed the interviewer was not fluent in English, insisted on using speaker phone even when Heath requested that he uses the handset so he could hear better, interrupted him before the end of his answers to questions, and would not accept a shared Google document in order to receive the code he requested, instead making Heath read out the lines of code. After Heath failed to get the job he contacted a Google HR representative who told him, “the interviewer had acted inappropriately, and that

the interviewer should have used the Google Docs software to receive the program that he had asked Mr. Heath to write.”

As part of a larger class action lawsuit, another plaintiff, Cheryl Fillekes, who is in her 50s, joined the case in 2016. recruiter requested that Fillekes submit an updated résumé that showed her graduation dates for college and graduate degrees. When Fillekes asked why this was required, she says the recruiter responded that it was "so the interviewers can see how old you are." Daniel Low, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an email to Bloomberg, “We believe that proceeding collectively will help us set a strong precedent preventing discrimination against older workers, which has become a substantial issue, especially in the tech industry.”

A survey of US startups conducted by venture-capital firm First Round Capital, found that 37% said age is the strongest investor bias against founders, while 28% cited gender and 26% cited race, with 89% of the survey respondents said they agree that older people face discrimination in the tech industry. There have been more reports popping up in the news about older people having trouble finding work in their fields. USA Today wrote about a 59 year old, Pete Denes who roamed across several states attempting to find a job after working for Hitachi.

A 66 year-old woman wrote on Wired about what it was like to be hired at Google when she was 52 years old. “For older workers (and others who aren’t quite a “culture fit”), tone-deaf get-togethers can cause emotional or logistical havoc. I’ve survived karaoke, rock climbing, and a folkloric overnight ski trip myself. There are good reasons for groups to let off steam and get better acquainted, but please, managers, make sure everyone feels comfortable about socializing in whatever way and at whatever time that you think will be so much fun.”

CNBC found a Quora question asking, “I'm 35 years old. Am I too old to join Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple as a software engineer?” In response, a Google employee, Andrew Shebanow, who said he started at the company at 46 and has been working there for seven years, said it is possible to get hired while older, but there are obstacles, including the interview process aimed toward young college graduates.

“Although ageism is rare, you may feel out of place at times since most of your coworkers will be much younger than you are,” he wrote. “This comes up more often in social situations than in technical ones.”