Google age-discrimination lawsuit: nearly 300 people have signed onto class action

A judge’s ruling has revealed the scale of the claim that Google has discriminated against older people by not hiring them.

Plaintiff Cheryl Fillekes, a systems engineer, alleges that Google interviewed her in person for four different jobs, starting when she was 47, but never hired her, in spite of “affirmatively” reaching out to her about positions because of her “impressive qualifications.”

Google called the allegations of age discrimination “without merit” and said it would continue defending its position vigorously.

“We have strong policies against discrimination on any unlawful basis, including age,” said Google spokesman Ty Sheppard.

The company said in a 2015 court filing that its actions with regard to Fillekes “were motivated by reasonable factors other than age.”

A judge in the suit, filed in April 2015, conditionally certified it as a class action last year.

Now, a ruling by Northern California U.S. District Court judge Howard Lloyd has revealed that 269 people have signed onto the class action, claiming Google discriminated against them in hiring on the basis of their age. A few more claimants will likely add themselves to the class, Lloyd said in the July 27 ruling.

Lloyd’s ruling also limited the information Google can demand from the plaintiffs who opted in to the suit.

“What’s to be allowed?” the judge asked himself rhetorically. “Google wants lots.

“The court wants to be fair and give Google limited discovery that will inform it on areas of legitimate interest, but not impose a(n) undue burden on the opt-ins or their attorneys to respond to discovery that may only be tangentially relevant.”

Google’s wish list included written information from 120 randomly selected plaintiffs and up to 72 in-person depositions of up to three hours. Lawyers for the plaintiffs wished for a sample of 30 plaintiffs who would respond to requests for information, with 25 of the people deposed by video for up to three hours.

Lloyd said some of what Google wanted “cast much too wide a net.”

The judge ordered that 75 of the opt-ins be selected at random to provide written declarations about their claims and alleged damages caused by Google. The company will be entitled to choose 35 of the opt-ins — which may or may not include those providing the declarations — for depositions not longer than three hours. Only five of the depositions can be in person, with at least 30 done via video, Lloyd ruled.



Photo: Technology workers outside a Google office building (Bay Area News Group)


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  • RegularGuy55


    A company can’t ask you how old you are, but they ask you when you got your degree. For most applicants, that’s the beginning of the end for a SV job opportunity. In the overwhelming majority of cases, knowing what year you got your degree will tell you – within a year or two – of how old the applicant is. If you’re over 40, your application gets trashed.

    For all the talk about gender and ethnic diversity, THIS is by far more pernicious.

    “Oh, well, a touch of gray, kinda suits you anyway . . . “

    • Mark

      Google’s defense does make a good case for them, in that, they received over a million resumes for those positions, and they heavily rely upon technical interviewing of the candidates they actually select to move forward, in order to make offers and/or exclude people.

      The fact that Google received a million applications for these positions, of which, there can’t be much more than 10,000 of them employed at Google, is proof enough that they have no business using the H-1B visa whatsoever.

      Age discrimination is far harder to prove. Sure, in new grads, for example, its reasonable to expect them to have a mastery of textbook concepts of computer science, and a reasonable strategy to discriminate against people who don’t.

      But for those who are years post-graduation, who may have performed similar jobs, evaluating on the basis of highly theoretical stuff taught in college-level CS courses, and almost never again actually ‘used’ in practice, is highly problematic.

      Essentially what it amounts to is Americans being dis-employed through a combination of H-1B abuse and a notoriously volatile economy in the technology sector being blamed for their unemployment by firms like Google in their recruiting processes, and then being held to the same standard as a fresh new grad in terms of a narrow amount of technical knowledge.

      The real elephant in the room is H-1B and OPT visa abuse, and its disastrous impact on the ordinary course of careers that grads of programs such as CS would take. Its been my observation that age discrimination has heavily been against the *young*, as in, its been impossible for the young Americans to get jobs at companies such as Google because they’ve been mostly offered to existing OPT interns who simply are returning to Google and firms like Google. Meaning that a young person who didn’t “luck” into a Google internship, learning Google’s processes and systems, and establishing connections within the Google organization, has little chance of ever joining Google. This culture of only re-employing previous interns is highly toxic to the industry.

      • RegularGuy55

        All that is true, but let’s not let Google hide behind numbers. Once you filter out the people hired, you can get a good age profile of a Google new hire. I’ll wager it’s pretty far on this side of age 40.

      • hoapres

        The problem is that the tech companies are able to bring in an almost unlimited supply of mostly YOUNG and CHEAP foreign labor.

      • Skip

        This is ridiculous. Any good graduate from an Ivy League school can apply for these internships when they are posted on campus. Besides, as someone who has hired a lot of graduates, it is better to have a foreign graduate from MIT than some American loser from local U. Most Americans are not that smart. We need to get the best talent from around the world. Again, if you did not graduate from a top school, then firms like Google are not for you. This is no different than Wall Street jobs or those in the top management consultancies.

        • Mark

          Actually firms like Google routinely throw out, without good faith consideration, applications from Americans. At both the internship as well as the full-time permanent employment levels. There’s nothing wrong with American candidates. Americans have a higher IQ on average than most other nationalities especially Indians who seem to dominate the tech sector these days. Google has no legitimate reason to use foreign nationals unless they actually consider all of the US citizen applicants to their company in good faith. Its not like they have any shortages of good applicants. The best talent in the world is often literally in the backyards of some of the largest tech companies, yet they ignore talent and hire foreign.

          As for ‘top school’ or not, there are plenty of great grads from non-top schools in the US.

    • Mark

      BTW, a good rule of thumb is that if you didn’t work at Google as an intern, you probably aren’t going to be hired as a full-timer after graduation.

      Google has ~10-20k software engineers give or take.

      According to that link, they hire 2000 interns per year (out of 40,000 applicants, 27,000 of whom are interviewed! — why the heck would they be allowed *any* OPT or H-1B visas!!!!). So its reasonable to infer that if one hasn’t had a previous internship with Google, they’re probably not going to be working for Google ever.

  • Kungaloosh

    paging @disqus_Gr8uDpg5XT:disqus & @hoapres:disqus

    • Mark

      Hopefully it goes forward. I *almost* meet the criteria, except for age. But if the Apple lawsuit was any indication, the plaintiffs won’t end up with much.

  • Mark

    Before the tech sector was hopelessly glutted with IT talent (Google should be charged with fraud for making misleading statements of talent shortages!), anyone with the requisite degrees, nevermind the sort of experience these applicants brought to the table would be snapped up and deployed.

    Sure, they might not work out, and might have to be either let go, or redeployed to non-technical areas, but the idea that experienced CS-qualified talent with extensive backgrounds in enterprise IT wouldn’t be easily employable by large-cap technology companies is completely and utterly absurd.

    The H-1B and OPT visas are the root of the problem here. So much talent is going to waste in America because the employers are hooked on hiring foreign nationals, concocting systemic ways to keep locals out of positions. Ruining their lives.

    Reading the lawsuits, it was clear that by dispatching an individual who was barely even able to understand English, did not show up on-time for a phone interview, and deliberately limited his time, Google was not interested in doing a good faith interview of the one plaintiff. It can even be argued that subjecting known and verifiable talent to a phone technical interview, with a coding test, is, in and of itself, rather unscrupulous.

  • Mark

    Another problem with the Google interviewing process that reeks of lack of professionalism is their practice of not sharing the full names and credentials of the interviewer. The plaintiff, Heath, was interviewed essentially by a person that was anonymous to him. Allegedly a software engineer. The software engineer probably had to turn in the Google Docs “whiteboard” documentation of the interview, but probably didn’t have to turn in an audio copy of the interview (something which you think wouldn’t be too hard for a company like Google to accomplish!).

    What an incredibly evil and disreputable company, IMHO. In fairness, the same cancer has infected a lot of other tech companies who refuse to give good faith feedback to applicants.

  • B_R

    F*** Google, where can I sign? Not hired because of white, male, 42; although completely qualified. Same thing happened at other job offers around the area. I had to move back to my parents home state and ended up with a divorce in the process since the wife didn’t want to leave and I couldn’t afford to stay there anymore. Silicon Valley can stick it where the sun don’t shine.

  • hoapres

    Americans are prerejected from tech employment due to h1b infestation.