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Google dealt setback in age bias case by judge interested in 'Googleyness'

Patrick Thibodeau | Oct. 7, 2016
Age discrimination lawsuit against Google gets collective action status.

Low said the case may have importance for Silicon Valley as well as Google.

"This is an important step forward for the case, and allows us to seek much broader relief than an individual action would have, and it positions the case to have a greater deterrent effect on age discrimination at Google and in the tech industry if it is successful," Low said.

In her ruling, Freeman gave weight to Fillekes arguments that she was a victim of age discrimination. Fillekes makes "substantial allegations," wrote the judge, "that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan."

The lawsuit claimed the median age at Google was 29, based on data collected by Payscale, which the judge cited in the ruling.

"Fillekes also recounts her own experience. Among other things, Fillekes describes an instruction from a Google recruiter to "put her dates of graduation on her resume 'so the interviewers [could] see how old [she is] and various concerns about her years of experience," the judge wrote.

The judge said that Google's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement was not enough to protect it.

"Having such a policy does not necessarily shield a company from a discrimination suit, particularly in light of the evidence and allegations presented here," wrote Freeman, who said that most, if not all companies, "are well versed in anti-discrimination law and make great efforts to ensure that their written policies comply with anti-discrimination law."

The decision does not mean that Google will lose the case. The judge said that evidence from an employer "is not germane at the first stage of the certification process, which is focused simply on whether notice should be disseminated to potential claimants."

Google, in an earlier court filing, defended itself. It said that Fillekes was recruited by Google four times, in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2013, and had in-person interviews. Why "waste Google employees' time" with "five or six onsite interviews only to reject the candidate on the basis of age," the company asked, in its filing.

"Googleyness" is a term that job applicants at Google may be familiar with. The firm explains it, on its website, this way: "Googleyness: Share how you work individually and on a team, how you help others, how you navigate ambiguity, and how you push yourself to grow outside of your comfort zone."


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