Google age-discrimination lawsuit may become monster

People over age 40 who interviewed for software engineering jobs at Google and were rejected may be able to join the lawsuit.

Just over a year ago, two job applicants filed a lawsuit against Google. They claimed they were rejected because of their age; both were over 40.

A federal court in San Jose, Calif. is now being asked to decide whether many others who sought jobs at Google and were also rejected can join this case.

On Wednesday, a motion for conditional certification of collective action status was filed. This motion, similar to a class action, seeks to include "all individuals who interviewed in-person for any software engineer, site reliability engineer, or systems engineer position with Google in the United States during the time period from August 13, 2010 through the present; were age 40 or older at the time of the interview; and were refused employment by Google."

A large number of people may be eligible. Google reportedly gets more than two million job applications a year, but it's not known how many applicants receive an in-person interview.

The court is being ask to make this an "opt-in" case -- meaning potential parties must decide whether to join this action. The plaintiff's motion, if it succeeds, will require Google to provide the names and contact information of every applicant over age 40 who interviewed in-person for a job in one of the three engineering areas. The affected parties will then be contacted.

A decision by the court on this motion is months away.

Cheryl Fillekes, a programmer and one of two parties in this case, is pressing forward with this collective-action claim. She is represented by Washington attorney Daniel Low.

Fillekes, who earned a Ph.D. in geophysics from University of Chicago and who also undertook postdoctoral work at Harvard, said she was invited for in-person interviews on four different occasions and was rejected each time.

The lawsuit alleges Google "engaged in a systematic pattern" of discrimination against people over the age of 40. It cited data from Payscale that put the workforce median age at 29, with a margin of error of 4%. It says the median age for computer programmers in the U.S. is 43.

The other party to this case, Robert Heath, a software engineer, was rejected after a technical telephone interview. His attorney, Dow Patten in San Francisco, said they are pursuing the age discrimination claim and will seek to join Fillekes' conditional certification of collective action.

That may broaden this case to include people who were rejected after telephone interviews.

A trial is scheduled for May 2017. A Google spokesman said the firm doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The motion by Fillekes identifies several other Google job applicants, but only by their initials. A summary of their experiences with Google is described in the motion.

One woman seeking a job at Google said an "interviewer expressed concern about a cultural fit, noting that she might not be up for the 'lifestyle'."

Although this unidentified woman assured the interviewer "that she was willing to work long hours, the interviewer replied that he was still worried that she was not Googley enough," according to the court document.

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