Google settles to cash out $11 million on a class action dating back in 2015. The lawsuit is alleging the company for age discrimination in terms of its hiring practices. The tech giant denies the allegations.
The class action involves 227 plaintiffs that are all claiming they were wrongly denied a career at the company because of their age. Momentarily, the settlement Google agreed to pay is still waiting for the approval of the judge overseeing the case.
Google in response has denied the allegations arguing that the members of the class-action suit failed to demonstrate technical prowess and that the question of “culture fit”—a workplace determining factor whether or not candidates were “Googley” enough to join—was not the issue.
Instead, Google has committed itself to additional training for employees and managers to make them aware of age discrimination and related issues. Furthermore, the company also says that it will create a committee focused on age diversity in recruiting, and to ensure that complaints are adequately investigated.
The legal battle between Google and the members of the latest class action lawsuit dates back in 2015 through a man named Robert Heath. He was a 60-something old man who says he was deemed a “great candidate” by a Google recruiter.
However, during the interview process, Heath received a technical phone interview with a Google engineer—a task he saw as an issue because the engineer insisted on taking over a speakerphone. Heath argued that the interview process “reflected a complete disregard for older workers who are undeniably more susceptible to hearing loss.”
In a more detailed explanation, Heath explained that when he was tasked to work through a technical problem. Asking for consideration, he asked if he could share his code using a Google Doc. However, the interviewer refused, and Heath had to read code snippets over the phone—an inherently error-prone process.
In a report by Ars Technica, Heath also said that the interviewer assumed that the word “byte” meant eight bits—a technical jargon indifference that Heath considered as age bias from the interviewer. Modern computer systems use 8-bit bytes, but older computer systems could have byte sizes ranging from six to 40 bits.
In the lawsuit, it said that in 2013, the median age of Google employees was 29, whereas the typical computer programmer in the US is over 40, according to several different measures.
Google settled Heath’s claim in December with an undisclosed amount, but a class-action lawsuit against the company continued with a new lead plaintiff, Cheryl Fillekes.
Fillekes, on the other hand, told that she was interviewed by the company four times from 2007 to 2014, starting when she was 47 but was never hired because of her age.
During one of the interviews, 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.
Google claimed Fillekes didn’t demonstrate the technical aptitude required for the job, but a federal judge granted the plaintiff’s motion to expand the litigation, which eventually led to the class action lawsuit.
“Age discrimination is an issue that needs to be addressed in the tech industry,” Fillekes’ lawyer says, “and we’re very pleased that we were able to obtain a fair settlement for our clients in this case.”
Assuming the settlement goes forward, $2.75 million of the $11 million payouts will end up in the coffers of the lawyers representing the class. About $35,000 will go to each plaintiff involved in the suit, with an additional $10,000 going to Fillekes as the lead plaintiff.
This is not the first time Google was alleged of age discrimination. Back in 2010, the company also settled similar claims with a man named Brian Reid. He alleged that he was removed from the company due to “culture fit.”
According to court documents, Reid received an excellent performance rating for his technical skills but was faulted for failing to fit into Google’s culture. His supervisor, Wayne Rosing, wrote, “Right or wrong, Google is simply different: Younger contributors, inexperienced first-line managers, and the super-fast pace are just a few examples of the environment.”
Google isn’t the first tech firm to face age discrimination complaints. Intel, Oracle, and Facebook have all been accused of similar behavior.