The California Supreme Court has been called into a dispute between Google and a 54-year-old engineer in an ageism row. Brian Reid was employed at the search engine giant in the summer of 2002 but, within two years was deemed “an old man,” “sluggish,” and “slow” by colleagues. He was fired for being a poor “cultural fit.” Reid, who had worked on Apollo 17, as well as building one of the first ever search engines at AltaVista, will finally have his case heard on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Google claims that Reid’s defense consists of a collection of “stray remarks” that are not worthy of a trial. Reid, on the other hand, has the thumbs-up from a San Jose appeals court that says he’d collected enough evidence for “a fact finder to conclude Google engaged in age discrimination.”
Logic states that a company whose logo is made up primarily of primary colors, and whose offices worldwide resemble playgrounds for kidults, should only be interested in hiring the young, as opposed to the middle-aged. When Reid was working at the firm, only 30 of its 1,900 employees were over 40. In 2004, the average age for male employees was 29.7 years, and females 28.4 and, according to a BBC report in 2009, not much had changed in five years. Currently, however, the firm, which puts great faith in team bonding sessions that can consist of roller-blade hockey games, and snowboarding, will not reveal the average age of its workers.
Its spat with Reid, however, seems to be the only ageism suit Google has faced in its 12-year-history. A spokesman for the company pooh-poohed the gist of Reid’s argument, saying, “there are plenty of older people at Google who do very well and do fit.”
The fact that this case has taken six years to get to court is somewhat ridiculous–something that Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Lane is aware of. “In Internet dog years, that’s like 60-70 years. Perhaps the culture was even more youngish back then–it doesn’t mean it’s the case now.”
The outcome of the case, however, will not see an immediate payoff of the tens of millions of dollars in lost stock options that Reid is claiming. The state’s Supreme Court is using it the case to clarify just how pertinent “stray remarks” are to the outcome of employment lawsuits, meaning that Reid will have up to 90 days to discover whether he can take his lawsuit any further.