The California Appellate Court recently let a case proceed against Google for age discrimination. Google fired the 54-year-old plaintiff, alleging in part that he “was not a cultural fit.” He was also told that his ideas were “ancient,” “too old to matter,” “obsolete,” and that he was “lethargic,” “sluggish,” and “lacked urgency.” In addition, the plaintiff’s expert showed a statistical disparity when it came to performance ratings and bonus payments.
Whether he succeeds in his case will be up to a jury. If it does, the verdict would be high. The largest average verdict is for a white male over 40. Either way, the case carries these lessons for all employers.
- Use “age-neutral” language where possible.
- Don’t hire cultural misfits. The risk on the termination side vastly outweighs any benefits on the hiring side.
- Know your statistics. Don’t let an outsider clue you in to disparate impact claims.
- Keep a consistent story. Google’s reason for the termination changed over time, undermining its credibility with the court.
To review the case, click here.