After an extensive legal process that began in 2015, Google is set to pay around $11 million in settlements to over 200 people who believe they were wrongly denied the opportunity to forge a career at the company due to their age.
It’s worth noting that this settlement must still be approved by the judge in the case, but it puts to rest the case that has rumbled on since it was first filed by a man named Robert Heath in his 60s (via Ars Technica).
Heath says he was told he would be a “great candidate” by a Google recruiter. The original lawsuit stated that in 2013, the median age of a Google employee was just 29, despite the median age of the typical computer programmer in the United States being over 40.
In the original suit, Heath claims the issue arose surrounding age discrimination when on a call to a Google engineer, who assumed that the word “byte” explicitly meant eight bits. In Heath’s view, this revealed an age bias. Almost all modern computer systems use 8-bit bytes; older systems can have byte sizes ranging between six to 40 bits.
Further, Heath alleged that during his technical interview, the Google engineer had a strong accent, which was made worse by the engineer’s insistence on using a speakerphone rather than a handset or headset. Heath requested to use a Google Doc to share code snippets that he was working on as part of the interview process, to which he claims the interviewer refused. Instead, he was told to read these code snippets over the phone.
Heath argued that this interview process “reflected a complete disregard for older workers who are undeniably more susceptible to hearing loss.” Google and Heath originally settled these claim in December 2018, but this class-action lawsuit against the company continued with a new lead plaintiff — Cheryl Fillekes.
Fillekes, who is in her early 50s, said that she interviewed for positions at Google on four occasions but was never offered a position. During one of her interviews, Fillekes says that a Google recruiter asked to see an updated resume that listed her college graduation dates. When probed by Fillekes, she claims the recruiter told her that it was “so the interviewers can see how old you are.”
Should the settlement go ahead, it is believed that $2.75 million of the $11 million payout will go to the lawyers representing the class. Approximately $35,000 will go to each of the 227 involved in the suit, with an additional $10,000 going to Fillekes as the lead plaintiff.
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