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Google sued for age discrimination: A diversity policy implying shame by not naming older age?

by on April 27, 2015

Ars Technica, a website devoted to technology news for ‘alpha geeks’, reports here that Google is being sued in the US for age discrimation by a 64 year old engineer. The website provides this link to his complaint which is made pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Robert Heath applied to Google for a position as a software engineer in 2011 when he was 60. At the time, Google was apparently in the process of ’embarking on its largest recruiting / hiring campaign in its history’. Heath’s application was rejected, despite him having what the complaint describes as ‘highly-pertinent qualifications and experience’ and notwithstanding a Google recruiter calling him a ‘great candidate’.

His claim highlights how the median age of Google employees (29 years) is some way below the median age of all US workers (42.4 years). Perhaps more significantly it is also below the median ages for US workers in computer-related fields (41.4 for computer and mathematical occupations; 42.8 for computer programmers; and 40.6 for software developers).

The complaint also mentions Google’s Diversity webpage, pointing out how it omits age-related workforce data whilst including figures about other employee characteristics. I hunted down the said page which is here and indeed this does seem to be the case. I couldn’t see any stats on age, just some on ethnicity and gender. I recall doing a similar search for Microsoft’s diversity page, likewise positioned quite a few layers down on their website, when writing this post about diversity at Microsoft. There are some striking parallels between the two including the existence of Employee Resource Groups.

At Google, again these groups mostly cluster around different ethnicities (Black Googler Network, Google American Indian Network) but also cover other diversity characteristics such as gender and sexual orientation – the latter covered by the Gayglers – yes, really. Which – linguistically at least – brings us to the Greyglers who, you’ve guessed it, are given a tagline ‘Creating community for Googlers “of a certain age”’ – though it obviously doesn’t say what that certain age might be. Doesn’t this imply a view that there’s something rather shameful about older age which means it shouldn’t be named?

Anyway, this is an employee resource group ‘that helps Google stay a top company for workers of all ages by promoting age diversity awareness. As company elders, the Greyglers explore how Google can better support the greater community of users of all ages‘. Of course with our research interest in visual images, my attention was immediately drawn to the accompanying photo for this group. Note the ‘older’ male figure with his pin-striped three piece suit, grey hair and beard all topped off with nonchalently worn Google Glass.

Heath’s lawyers are seeking to form a class action of those aged 40 and above who applied for jobs with Google after August 2010 but weren’t hired. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

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