EEOC Makes its Presence Known in Silicon Valley

The EEOC this week filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination in hiring against a Silicon Valley, CA, employer.

No, the EEOC didn’t sue Google or Microsoft. The EEOC sued  the city of Milpitas for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by choosing a younger candidate over older applicants with greater qualifications for the position of executive secretary to the city manager. The city allegedly failed to hire four qualified applicants who scored higher than the person selected in a three-person panel review of the candidates.  The individuals who were not selected were 55, 42, 56 and 58 years old. Instead, EEOC alleges the city hired a younger applicant (age 39) who was less qualified than these people, without a valid justification for disregarding the panel rankings.

EEOCAge discrimination in hiring is particularly blatant in Silicon Valley, where the high-tech industry is notorious for hiring only young workers.  Some Silicon Valley employers unabashedly advertise for job applicants who are “digital natives” and “recent graduates.”

A  60-year-old software engineer who was not hired by Google in 2011 filed a class action age discrimination lawsuit against Google earlier this year. The lawsuit  alleges the company’s workforce is “grossly disproportionate” with respect to age. The lawsuit asserts the median age of the 28,000 employees who worked for Google in 2013 was 29.  The U.S. Department of Labor reports the median age for computer programmers in the United States is 42.8 and the median age for software developers is 40.6.

EEOC Senior Counsel Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, in a speech last summer, singled out open and flagrant age discrimination in the high-tech industry, adding, “Some of our officers have made it a priority in looking at age discrimination in the tech industry.”

 Silicon Valley has been a virtual apartheid ‘state’ for younger workers for years.

The EEOC lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (EEOC v. City of Milpitas, Case No. 5:15-cv-04444) after attempts failed to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  EEOC’s suit seeks, among other things, monetary damages for the four applicants and injunctive relief intended to prevent a recurrence of age discrimination in City of Milpitas government.

“Older workers continue to face discrimination based on age due to negative stereotypes and inaccurate assumptions about their abilities,” said EEOC San Francisco Acting Regional Attorney Jonathan Peck.  “It is important for employers to ensure that such stereotyping does not impact a person’s ability to be employed.  Employment decisions must be based on merit, not age.”

EEOC San Francisco District Director William R. Tamayo added, “Age discrimination remains a problem, making up 23 percent of all EEOC charges filed in the United States last year.  It is important that employers not ignore the value that older workers can bring to their workforce.”

Google Hit With Class Action Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Silicon Valley has been an unapologetic apartheid state for young workers for years but this could be about to change.

A class action age discrimination lawsuit was filed against Google, Inc. on April 22 by software engineer Robert Heath who was interviewed but not hired for a position at Google in 2011 when he was 60-years-of-age. The lawsuit alleges Google has demonstrated a pattern and practice of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

According to the lawsuit, Google’s workforce is “grossly disproportionate” with respect to age. The lawsuit asserts the median age of the 28,000 employees who worked for Google in 2013 was 29.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor reports the median age for computer programmers in the United States is 42.8 and the median age for software developers is 40.6. According to the lawsuit, Google had 53,000 employees in 2014 and revenues of approximately $66 billion.

Google’s position with respect to age discrimination is completely inexplicable. The company last year made a public commitment to increase race and gender diversity in its workforce, and released workforce statistics relating to those characteristics. But Google was completely silent with respect to  age and did not release age-related statistics. It was as if Google’s position was that age is not a factor in workforce diversity.

Its not like Google can claim ignorance of age discrimination laws.  The California Supreme Court in 2010 reinstated an age discrimination lawsuit filed by former Google executive Brian Reid  finding that Reid had presented sufficient evidence of age discrimination in his firing by Google in 2002.  Among other things, Reid said Google colleagues referred to him as an “old man,” and “old guy,” and “old fuddy-duddy” and joked that his CD jewel case office placard should be an “LP” or long-playing record. Google subsequently settled the case out of court.

Heath, of Boynton Beach, FL, states that he was contacted and encouraged to apply to Google by a company recruiter who said Google was embarking on its largest recruiting/hiring campaign in its history. The recruiter said Google was looking for engineers with coding experience in the C++ and Java computer languages.  Heath holds a master certification in Java, scoring higher than 96 percent of all previous test takers for that certification, and a master certification in C ++, scoring higher than 89 percent of all previous test takers for that certification. He has more than 30 years of experience working with C++ and Java.

Heath said his initial interview was a telephone interview with an engineer who called ten minutes late and was barely fluent in English. Moreover, the engineer insisted on using used a speaker phone that did not function well.  Heath was asked to write a short program in code.  The engineer insisted that Heath read the program aloud. Even though the engineer “seemed not to understand” what Heath was reading, he refused to allow Heath to email the program to him or use Google Docs.

“[B]y 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 lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction ordering Google to adopt a valid, non-discriminatory method for hiring employees, to post notices concerning its duty to refrain from age discrimination, and to pay Heath and members of the class damages.

The case is Robert Heath v. Google Inc., 5:15-ev-01824 (4/22/2015).  It was filed in U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Jose, California.

Google & Free Speech

Google_Mountain_View_campus_dinosaur_skeleton_'Stan'I learned something new in recent weeks.  If your blog is not being searched by Google, it tends to disappear from public view.

A defining feature of the marketplace of ideas today is that free speech is increasingly dependent upon  a handful of search engines, led by Google. And that’s kind of scary.  On May 29, 2014, I wrote an article noting that Google had omitted age from its plan to boost diversity in its workforce.  I’ve written a couple of articles about the fact that Google (like many Silicon Valley companies) appears to engage in blatant age discrimination with impunity.  On the day I wrote the article  my blog received almost a thousand impressions from Google.    This means pages from my site appeared in Google search results almost a thousand times.  A week later, my blog was receiving fewer than 100 Google impressions per day.

The chart showing the decline in Google impressions on my blog since May 29 looks like the flume at a water park when standing at the top or a graph of the economy right after the Great Recession. My Google search traffic ranged from 500 to 1,250 impressions per day for the month preceding May 29; it has been below 100 impressions ever since (with the exception of one day when there were 228 impressions).

The link in the decline in search traffic on my blog may be purely coincidental.  And I realize that Google is basically a mathematical formula, an algorithm.  However, clearly Google can be tweaked.  For example, European courts have recognized an individual’s right to be “forgotten” and require  Google to omit certain information from search engine traffic.  What if  Google was hyper-sensitive and was intentionally omitting my blog from searches?  I wondered whether I have any legal right to demand that Google play fair?

The answer appears to be no.

[Read more…]

Google Omits Age from Diversity Goals

Something is missing from diversity statistics posted online  this week by Google – information about the age of its workforce.

Google posted statistics showing a workforce that is (surprise!) incredibly non-diverse in gender and race.  Google’s workforce is  70 percent male and 30 percent female. And Google’s workforce is 61 percent white  and 30 percent Asian. Only three percent of Google’s workforce are Hispanic, two percent are African-American and four percent are described as “two or more races.”

The numbers apparently were compiled as part of a report that major U.S. employers must file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The EEOC report collects information about sex and race.  Companies are not required to make the information public.

Google  chose to publicly divulge  the damning figures about its overwhelmingly white male workforce, but did not reveal the ages of its employees.  Isn’t that a statistic that Google deems important in terms of measuring a diverse workforce?  Just how  many workers at Google are over the age of 40, the age at which workers fall under the protection of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

One can only speculate why Google has ignored age in its discussion of diversity. Possibly the numbers are drastically askew and Google fears an age discrimination lawsuit.  It’s not exactly a secret that  Silicon Valley generally and Google, in particular,  celebrate a youth culture.

A few years ago, Google settled a lawsuit alleging age discrimination by Brian Reid, who was hired by Google in a senior tech role when he was age 54 .  Reid  left after two years when he was re-assigned to head up a new program with no staff that was quickly phased out..  Reid said supervisors and co-workers at Google made  derogatory comments about his age, stating that he was not a “cultural fit” for the company, that he was “an old man,” “slow,” “sluggish,” “lethargic” and “an old fuddy-duddy” who “lacked energy.” Co-workers allegedly joked that Reid’s CD (compact disc) jewel case office placard should be an “LP” (which stands for long-playing record). The lawsuit was reportedly settled after the California Court of Appeals said Reid had presented undisputed evidence supported a prima facie case of age discrimination.

According to a story in  the New Republic, age thirty is over-the-hill in Silicon Valley, where “[t]ech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old.”

The  diversity statistics provided by Google are even worse than they first appear. Of the 30 percent of Google’s workforce who are female, only about 18 percent work in professional tech jobs.  Only one percent of blacks and two percent of Hispanics who work at Google work in prize tech jobs.

Of the company’s “leadership” team, 79 percent are male and 21 percent are female;  72 percent are white; 23 percent are Asian; two percent are black; 1.5 percent are identified as “two or more races” and one percent are Hispanic.