Last week, Google settled an age discrimination lawsuit, agreeing to pay $11 million to more than 200 applicants over the age of 40. Plaintiffs claimed the tech giant denied them jobs because of their age, alleging "a systematic pattern and practice of discriminating against older people."
The lawsuit and settlement shine a light on age discrimination at some off the nation's largest companies. But what does it mean for older job applicants, at Google and elsewhere?
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on a variety of factors, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects people over 40 years old from employment discrimination based on age. But federal protections don't just apply to hiring -- they also bar discrimination in job advertisements and the application process, as well as apprenticeship programs, firing, retirement, and benefits.
Under the ADEA, employers cannot reduce health or life insurance benefits for older employees, single out older workers when reducing the size of the workforce or "downsizing," or force employees to take early retirement. Employers are also forbidden from retaliating against workers who file age discrimination complaints.
According to the age discrimination suit filed against Google, the company hired almost 30,000 people between 2007 and 2013. The median age of all its workers during this period was 29, while the median age for employees in comparable math and computer fields nationwide was 41. One plaintiff (who was 47 at the time) claims that on three separate occasions she was contacted by a Google recruiter for a possible job, interviewed several times by phone, and then was rejected by company representatives after meeting in person.
Despite the settlement, Google denies committing age discrimination. Still, the company agreed to train managers and workers on age-based bias, and to set up a committee in its recruiting department to focus on age diversity in its engineering departments.
With high-profile settlements like this one, more companies should be focusing on their HR departments and making sure that their job advertising, application, and hiring practices are ADEA-compliant. And that should level the playing field for older job applicants nationwide.
If you think you've been denied a job opportunity because of your age, contact a discrimination attorney to discuss your legal options.