Google has settled for $11 million a long-running class-action lawsuit claiming that it discriminated against hundreds of older workers by failing to hire them because of their age.
The workers argued in their lawsuit that between 2007 and 2013, Google’s workforce grew to nearly 30,000 people and that the median age of its workers as of 2013 was 29, compared to a median age of 41 for U.S. employees in computer and math fields. They claimed Google, through “reckless indifference” or “intentional discrimination,” denied equal hiring, employment and compensation opportunities to people 40 and older.
Google has consistently denied it discriminates on the basis of age. It said in a court filing that its actions regarding the two lead plaintiffs, who were not hired after being interviewed by the Mountain View digital-advertising giant, “were motivated by reasonable factors other than age.”
The dispute, the settlement agreement noted, revolved in part around whether “Googleyness” and “cultural fit” were legitimate hiring criteria or were concepts used by the company to discriminate on the basis of age.
Plaintiff Robert Heath applied for a software development job at Google in 2011, submitting a resume that listed information-technology jobs going back to 1978, which “thus made it apparent he was over 50 years old,” according to the lawsuit, which was first filed in 2015 in U.S. District Court in San Jose. A Google recruiter contacted him and conducted a phone interview, but Heath, 60 at the time, was not hired, the suit said.
Plaintiff Cheryl Fillekes, according to the suit, was contacted by a Google recruiter in 2007 for a possible job in the firm’s engineering and testing or software development groups. She was 47 at the time, according to the suit. Fillekes was interviewed several times by phone, and once in person, but was not hired, the suit said. A similar process played out three more times, with Google recruiters inviting her to apply for work, and Fillekes getting rejected after meeting company representatives in person, the suit claimed.
“Despite being very well qualified for each of the positions she interviewed for, Google did not hire her for any position after she attended her in-person interviews,” the suit said.
The court in 2016 approved the lawsuit as a class action, and it drew in more than 230 additional plaintiffs who claimed they were interviewed in person for site-reliability engineering or systems engineering positions at Google when they were 40 or older and were refused employment between Aug. 28, 2014 and October 5, 2016.
According to the settlement agreement, filed in court last week and agreed to by Google and 227 plaintiffs, Google agreed to train managers and workers on age-based bias, and set up a committee in its recruiting department to focus on age diversity in software engineering, systems-reliability engineering and systems engineering.
Google, in the settlement, denied committing age discrimination.
Of the $11 million settlement, lawyers for the plaintiffs will get about $2.8 million in fees plus about $175,000 in expenses, according to the agreement.
Each plaintiff is to receive a minimum of $11,495, plus additional compensation for lost wages to be determined case-by-case. Fillekes is to receive an additional special award of $10,000, and the settlement administrator will get about $21,000.
The seven plaintiffs who didn’t sign onto the settlement will have their cases dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning they can file separate lawsuits making the same claims if they wish.
In 2010, Google, which brought in $136 billion in revenue last year, settled a lawsuit by a prominent technology leader, Brian Reid, after firing him from an engineering-director job in 2004 at age 54. Reid, when fired, was allegedly told he was not a good “cultural fit” at the company. Terms of that settlement were not publicly released.
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