Google suffered a setback in an age discrimination suit this week. A judge ruled that other software engineers over age 40 who interviewed with the company but didn’t get hired can step forward and join the lawsuit.
The suit was brought by two job applicants, both over the age of 40, who interviewed but weren’t offered jobs.
Specifically, the judge has approved turning the suit into a “collective action” meaning that people who “interviewed in person with Google for a software engineer, site reliability engineer, or systems engineer position when they were 40 years old or older, and received notice on or after August 28, 2014, that they were refused employment, will have an opportunity to join in the collective action against Google,” the ruling says.
While this isn’t good news for Google, the ruling was strictly focused on whether the suit could be broadened to include more people. It doesn’t meant that Google will ultimately lose the case.
Google says it’s fighting the suit. A spokesperson told us, “We believe the allegations here are without merit and we will continue to defend our position vigorously. We have strong policies against discrimination on any unlawful basis, including age.”
Interestingly, the judge is particularly not buying that “policies” defence from Google, writing in the ruling:
“Having such a policy does not necessarily shield a company from a discrimination suit, particularly in light of the evidence and allegations presented here … today, most, if not all, companies are well versed in anti-discrimination and make great efforts to ensure their written policies comply with anti-discrimination law.”
In terms of allegations, one of the plaintiffs alleged that a Google recruiter told her she needed to puts the dates of her graduation on her resume so interviewers could determine her age. That same plaintiff argued that she had found seven others who say they had similar experiences at Google. She also presented evidence to the court that the median age of Google’s workforce is 29 while the median age in the US for programmers is 42.8 years old.
How old are Google employees?
Google has about 61,000 employees and we asked Google if the company has publicly released statistics on its median age. Age is not included with the company’s published diversity report, which discusses sex and race. Google didn’t respond.
However, we do know that Google has a diversity club on campus called “Greyglers” which is for Googler employees over 40. The company describes it as a group for “company elders” that helps the company with “promoting age diversity awareness.”
The company was sued way back in 2004 for age discrimination and, after winding through the appeals system, the case was ultimately settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Still, just allowing people who went on job interviews but didn’t get a job to join a suit is a startling turn of events. Some folks on Hacker News, a site where programmers discuss news items of interest to them, worry that instead of solving the tech industry’s age discrimination problem, it will make it worse.
“Fallout from this: Companies will go to great lengths to avoid contact with people who submit resumes that imply they are old. No phone screens, no responses. It’s going to be wintertime for folks in their late 30s now.”