A 64-year-old engineer is suing Google for age discrimination

A paradise just for the young?
A paradise just for the young?
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Diversity in technology has been a hot-button issue as companies, pushed on by Google’s initial disclosure, reveal gender and race statistics that are less than flattering.

Less discussed is the fact that the workforces of these companies can skew young.

In a lawsuit filed April 22 in federal court in San Jose, California, a 64-year-old engineer named Brian Heath alleges that the Google’s hiring practices discriminate against people aged 40 and up. The suit seeks to represent a class of Google applicants in that age range who were rejected for employment at the search giant starting back in August 2010.

Google’s average employee is 29 years old, similar to other tech companies, according to the Payscale data the lawsuit refers to, and to investment banks and consultancies. The median age of US workers in 2013 was 42.4.

“We believe that the facts will show that this case is without merit and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” a Google spokesperson tells Quartz via email.

In court filings (pdf), Heath’s lawyers quote an email from a recruiter who reached out to Heath. The recruiter noted that Google was embarking on its biggest-ever hiring spree, and said he thought Heath would be a great candidate, the complaint says.

After answering a questionnaire and sending his resume documenting 30 years of experience (making his age fairly plain), a phone interview was set up, the complaint says.

Heath’s lawyers allege it was far from a fair interview. The call came “ten minutes later than scheduled,” the complaint says, curtailing the length of the call. The interviewer was “barely fluent in English,” was on a poorly functioning speakerphone, and declined repeatedly to switch to a handset, the complaint says. Heath was interrupted before he had a chance to detail his background and qualifications, the suit claims. After answering a series of technical questions, he was asked to complete a coding test. When he’d completed it, he asked how to send the code over via Google Docs. The interviewer refused to use Google Docs and refused to accept the code via email, the complaint says. “The interviewer required Mr. Heath to read the program coding over the phone, which Mr. Heath did,” the complaint says.

A day later the recruiter who contacted him informed him he wouldn’t be moving on to the next stage of the hiring process.

“By conducting the interview as described above, Google intentionally did not allow Mr. Heath to communicate or demonstrate his full technical abilities, and did not have a sincere interest in hiring Mr. Heath,” the complaint states.

The complaint also says that while Google publishes a variety of statistics related to diversity, it does not publish workforce statistics related to age.