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August 09, 2010

Google to Face Age Discrimination Lawsuit in Court

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor


Will age discrimination play a more prominent role in the future workplace? It may, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit against Google that will now go to trial. 

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the California Supreme Court has ruled that an age discrimination lawsuit filed against the search giant should proceed to trial. It is believed that the outcome of this trial could change the way age is perceived in the workplace, treated much like sexual harassment where passing remarks are given full discriminatory weight. 


This ruling also makes it more difficult for California companies to defeat claims of discrimination at an earlier stage and employees will have an opportunity to be heard by a jury.In the Google (News - Alert) suit, ex-senior Google exec Brian Reid claims that while he was employed with the company between 2002 and 2004, he was criticized by other execs for his age. At the time of his termination, he was told that he wasn’t the right “cultural fit” for the company. Google claims age was not the reason for Reid’s termination and anticipates the opportunity to present termination documentation at trial. The ruling is considered to be a very significant victory for employees and as a result, companies are more likely to increase their efforts to counsel employees against making offensive comments. This is especially important when colleagues are trying to master technology and comments could be construed as a coded attack on age. According to Google, Reid was fired over poor job performance and an elimination of his job. 

The company had eliminated an in-house graduate degree program Reid was told to run after he was removed as director of operations in favor of a younger executive. Google had hoped to dismiss Reid’s claim under the “stray remarks” doctrine, yet this attempt was unsuccessful. Silicon Valley is known as a culture of youth and Reid is contending he is a victim of that culture. 

Google counters such comments by highlighting that Reid was initially hired by a 55-year-old executive, demonstrating that the company values diversity in every aspect of its workforce. Reid claims executives called him an old man and that his ideas were referred to as too old to matter. He has submitted as part of his case e-mails sent by his boss before his termination that indicate age was an issue. Reid first sued the company after he was fired and is seeking $45 million of unvested stock options.

In other Google news, the company announced last month that in spite of China's continued attempts to censor Internet users and trump individual license rights, Google has decided to comply with government demands. A recent Associated Press (News - Alert) report shows that Google has agreed to obey censorship laws and to stop automatically switching mainland users to the unfiltered Hong Kong site. As a result of its ability to conform, Google's Internet license has been renewed by China.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison


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