Cheryl F. applied for jobs at Google four times over the course of seven years. Despite "highly pertinent qualifications and programming experience," however, and despite staff interviewers apparently finding her to be a good fit for the company, she was never hired. She believes that it was because she is over 40.
Furthermore, Cheryl alleges that Google follows "a systematic pattern and practice of discriminating" against people over 40, which is arguably a violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). She filed a class action and 227 people joined.
Google denied the claims of age discrimination, asserting that the job applicants simply didn't show the technical aptitude needed for the jobs they applied for.
Now, Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. have agreed to settle the age discrimination claims. Google will pay $11 million to the class, which amounts to a bit more than $35,000 for each class member.
Google has also agreed to:
- Provide manager and employee training on age bias
- Create a committee meant to focus on age diversity in recruitment
- Ensure that discrimination complaints are investigated adequately
The company continues to deny any intentional discrimination against Cheryl or the other job applicants based on their being over 40. It claims to already have strong policies prohibiting all types of discrimination.
"Age discrimination is an issue that needs to be addressed in the tech industry," commented one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, however. Often enough, companies that wish to be seen as new, agile, flexible and up-to-date discriminate against older people who they feel do not meet that vision.
Does the ADEA prohibit discrimination against job applicants?
There is currently some controversy over whether the ADEA actually prohibits discrimination against job applicants. In January 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in Kleber v. CareFusion Corporation that the ADEA only applies to employees, not job applicants.
However, the text of the ADEA reads, in relevant part:
"It shall be unlawful for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age."
Kleber only applies in the states of the Seventh Circuit, which are Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. That said, other federal circuits may take the ruling into account in their own cases.