The Cost of Age Discrimination: Google Pays $11 Million to Settle 227 Claims
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants/prospective employees on the basis of age, provided the affected individual is age 40 or above. Although the law is clear on this point, the news is full of stories of employers who attempt to skirt the ADEA to discriminate in favor of hiring younger employees or take actions that inadvertently do so. Of course, when such practices are exposed, the results can prove costly for the employer.
Job Applicants Claimed Hiring Process Designed to Favor Younger Workers
As a recent example, Google agreed to a settlement with a group of 227 individuals who accused the company of job discrimination in its hiring practices. According to a class action complaint, Heath v. Google LLC, originally filed in April 2015, Google’s workforce grew from 9,500 to 28,000 employees between 2007 and 2013–yet somehow the median age for all employees at the company was just 29 years old. This is well below the median age of 41.1 for all U.S. workers, the complaint said.
One of the original plaintiffs in the class action, a 60-year-old software engineer, alleged he was not hired by Google despite possessing “highly pertinent qualifications and experience” and receiving an interview. During the interview, the plaintiff alleged the interviewer “did allow [the plaintiff] to demonstrate his full technical abilities, and did not have a sincere interest in hiring [him].” The plaintiff said the company’s interview practices were intentionally designed to put “similarly situated workers age 40 or older” at a disadvantage versus younger applicants.
A second plaintiff, a woman in her 50s, alleged she was not offered a position at Google even after completing four interviews. This plaintiff further alleged a Google employee asked her to list her college graduation dates “so the interviewers can see how old you are.”
Altogether, 234 individuals joined the class action. On July 19, 2019, 227 of these 234 class members agreed to settle their claims against Google for a combined total of $11 million. The technology news site Ars Technica further reported Google will “beef up its efforts against age discrimination, provid[e] training to managers and creat[e] a new committee to address age discrimination issues.”
Looking for “Red Flags” That May Indicate Age Discrimination
The mere fact that a prospective employer asks about an applicant’s age is not, in and of itself, illegal. But questions or statements by an interview such as, “You are overqualified for this position” or makes specific inquiries into your “retirement plans,” may be potential red flags. Under the ADEA, your age cannot factor into the employer’s hiring decision at all. If you suspect that it was a factor in a denial of employment offer, then you should contact a qualified California employment law attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options.