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Judges Reinstate Charges In Google Age Discrimination Suit 291

Posted by Zonk
from the oldies-but-goodies dept.
theodp writes "A California appeals court has reinstated former Stanford prof Brian Reid's age-discrimination suit against Google, ruling that a lower Court erred in siding with Google and rejecting Mr. Reid's claims. From the Court Decision (PDF): 'We conclude that Reid produced sufficient evidence that Google's reasons for terminating him were untrue or pretextual, and that Google acted with discriminatory motive such that a factfinder would conclude Google engaged in age discrimination.' As side notes, helping Reid make his case is CS Prof Norman Matloff, while Google's actions are being defended by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati of pretexting-was-not-generally-unlawful fame."
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Judges Reinstate Charges In Google Age Discrimination Suit

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  • Sounds like The Office last night.
  • pretextual! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:22AM (#20867347)
    > untrue or pretextual

    Wow! I've been on the internet since it was pregraphical. But pretextual! That must have been a really long time ago. No wonder they fired him for being old.

    • Re:pretextual! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nymz (905908) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:41AM (#20867615) Journal

      Wow! I've been on the internet since it was pregraphical. But pretextual! That must have been a really long time ago. No wonder they fired him for being old.
      Another sign of being too old is if you remember 'do not be evil', which has now been replaced with 'do not be generally unlawful'.
    • Could be worse. I'm precardial and worked at a place where computers were programmed using patch panels. The "upgrade" used punched cards.

      And I'm 7 years younger than Brian.
  • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:28AM (#20867435)
    "'We conclude that Reid produced sufficient evidence that Google's reasons for terminating him were untrue or pretextual, and that Google acted with discriminatory motive such that a factfinder would conclude Google engaged in age discrimination.'"

    So much for "Do no evil" (of course, Google has acted contrary to that self-righteous and self-congratulatory credo for years now. Looks like in the future slashdotters will be able to refer to Google as 'convicted discriminator' in each and every Google story. :p

    • by Otter (3800)
      In fairness, Google hasn't been convicted yet (even by Slashbot standards of "convicted"), just had their previously accepted request for dismissal overturned.

      You might want to look to the stories here on "Single Mother With Lupus Defeats RIAA!!!" to see how to spin dismissal rulings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KiahZero (610862)
      No. The court held that summary judgment was inappropriately granted, because there is a material question of fact regarding whether or not Google engaged in illegal conduct. In other words, if a jury were to believe everything Reid presented, and make reasonable inferences from that evidence, they could reasonably conclude that Google engaged in age discrimination.
  • by xzvf (924443) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:28AM (#20867439)
    I just turned 40 and am a well paid system administrator. Is it really feasible to work in technology past the age of 50? It's harder to keep up with every new tech and some of the buzzwords of today are really annoying. Most social networking sites feel like reality TV.
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      One word: cyborg

    • by blueZhift (652272)
      I just turned 40 and am a well paid system administrator. Is it really feasible to work in technology past the age of 50?

      I'll let you know when I get there! Seriously, if we older tech guys want to stay in the business and are performing well, then I don't think age should be an issue. For this, having some kids is an advantage, they're helping me ride the wave of new technology and even stay out ahead of it a little. And BTW, happy birthday!
    • Well, I just turned 45 and I consider myself (as a senior software engineer) to be at the top of my game. I've made a point of (selectively) keeping up with the latest. I taught myself Rails this summer, and I've spent the last 3 weeks learning Salesforce.com coding for work. I don't think it's age that pushes people out of the industry, it's failure to stay current. If you get cozy with whatever you're doing right now, and don't keep your skills fresh, you're certain to age out of the industry.

      James

      (W
    • It's harder to keep up with every new tech and some of the buzzwords of today are really annoying

      The buzzwords have always been annoying.

      As for the former part of your statement, er, no, it's not ... and that may be why there's no tech life for you after 50.

      (While this reply is somewhat tongue and cheek ... keeping up with the tech really is part of the job. You don't have to be proficient in everything, but having at least a familiarity with what's going on in your industry is essential IMHO. And I'm not a
    • Life after 50 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm 50 now, and (for me) the answer is Hell Yes. My rates are back where they were just before the dotcom bust (not the insane $150+ per hour rates, but the reasonable market ones back then). I'm turning away work again in Silicon Valley.

      I find that I've gotten far, far better with age. You may have heard of the old mainframe guy with 30+ years of experience who can look at the output and tell you what the problem is. Well, I'm there. With the Linux/Unix kernel and other system work. I find that I'm the per
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      some of the buzzwords of today are really annoying. Most social networking sites feel like reality TV
      Speaking as a 25-year-old, I can safely reassure you that this view isn't restricted to the old guys.

      By the way, a good hint for buzzword generating is to just append -cast to any word that pops into your head, or is relevant at the time. I've been opinioncasting for a while now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eh2o (471262)
      You have to stay abrest of trends to be relevant, that is true for any subfield of engineering, and for any creative field also. But the good news is that this task is actually easier now than it ever has been -- e.g., Wikipedia will give you an un-hyped description of basically any buzzword. You can stay on top of the alphabet soup with just a few minutes of reading.
  • I might not agree with the conclusion, but I've found this article [wordpress.com] to be a worthwhile read.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:33AM (#20867509) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I am a believer in nearly an absolute right of freedom of association, so I support the right to fire employees for stupid reasons including racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, failure to keep kosher/halal, etc.

    At 54 he may be a real asset to the company in other areas of the company that aren't bleeding edge. He may be the sort of guy you want working on some very difficult, but not sexy, problems like getting better performance out of their products. Just because his ideas aren't new, doesn't mean that he is useless. To the contrary, his experience may be worth several times the vision of a young employee.

    The IT industry deserves its problems. It deserves to have to deal with labor shortages if it is young to be a cult of youth. No other industry treats its senior engineers with as much contempt as much of IT. No mechanical engineering outfit in their right mind would trade a person with 30 years of solid experience for a whipper snapper or two with vision, but no experience. It would be product suicide.

    So, do we now add this to the growing list of how Google is becoming evil? I don't see how you can avoid it.
    • by MrSenile (759314) on Friday October 05, 2007 @11:10AM (#20868057)
      Being an IT professional, I'll tell you right now this isn't just Google.

      This is the corporate mindset.

      The upper management look at the bottom dollar on how to make money.

      And regardless of how ugly it is, on paper, IT are a cost. Never a profit.

      Remember, I'm IT. I know just like any other IT professional, that what we save a company in revenue is enormous. We maintain the systems, prevent outtages, and are a total invisible entity until something goes wrong (tm). But most of the time, we're ignored. Why? Because we do our job, we do our job well, and people who make money can continue to make money.

      If we went by the RIAA method of cost, then we could argue that each IT professional is worth a few hundred million dollars. Because it's our expertise that is saving the company that much in lost revenue every year, as a blanket possibility.

      Unfortunately, the RIAA method of cost isn't used by the business department. The only go for immediate dividends. They look at the long scope project plan and how much revenue they will be generated. To date, I have hardly ever seen a business plan that takes potential loss into account with any budget they write. Ever.

      This is why they can easilly determine that firing the 'old codgy 20+ year expert' who makes his 100K year for a green out of college eager beaver for 40K year saves the company 60K, PLUS BENEFITS, a shot.

      Looks really good on paper.

      Of course, in that year, they lose more money than the 60K in training, mistakes made by this individual, downtime on servers, misappropiations of resources and applications, etc etc.

      But that never shows on paper. Regardless of the loss, they'll just point to the 60K saved. And when the company inevitably has a SAN outtage, drive failure, OS crash, DDoS attack or other miscreant attack/damage, they'll put this person on probation, fire off other high end professionals who weren't at fault, maybe lay off the manager in charge of the department. And then, wow, look how much MORE money we saved? We're doing great!

      Long as the chair boards are happy and the investors get their cash, frankly, they don't give a damn about the IT professional, and that's always going to be the case.

      Welcome to industry gentlemen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JavaManJim (946878)
        The IT budget is under the dreaded "expense" word on balance sheets. Expenses are the bad neighborhood of the accounting balance sheet.

        That's a brilliant point you bring out suggesting that "potential loss" be brought into account. If potential loss evaluation is such a rare concept in today's management world, should it then be patentable?

        Then a couple of years ago. I lived your story. Too old. Younger person made mistakes. Blamed on me. How dare you, bye bye from management. Know what? That manager in tu
      • As the young guy (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phorm (591458)
        I'd say it really depends on the individual. For myself, technology is a lifestyle, and as such I'm continually learning new things and (doing my best at) staying up-to-date. I know a lot of old hats at any jobs - and tech is a big one for this - that have the attitude of "this is the way it's always been" or have the assumption that "because of my experience, I know best." The problem is, that these individuals lose the will to learn, which can be death in the IT industry.

        Where I work, a lot of the long-
    • by Aceticon (140883)
      Junior people are a lot cheaper. They're also a lot easier to convince to work 80 hour/weeks.

      Experience developers usually have families and have to "leave at 5 to pick up my kid from school". Professionally they are also a lot more bothersome, constantly suggesting that "maybe we should do some analysis before we start coding" or "we should have a separate test team" or even "we need to write some documentation on what the software does".

      In software development, experience is something whose benefices are
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rs79 (71822)
        "Junior people are a lot cheaper. They're also a lot easier to convince to work 80 hour/weeks. "

        Yeah! WTF is up with that?

        I started in the Caliifornia computer industry when I was 22 in 1979. At my job there I was told:

        1) This is the most important project in the history of the company.
        2) If this project fails, the company goes under
        3) Only you can do it.

        So I worked buttloads of (unpaid) extra hours. And I felt good about it.

        In my next job I was told:

        1) This is the most important project in the history of
  • Firing someone (Score:2, Informative)

    by hernyo (770695)
    By the way, what reasons are accepted for firing someone? In the European Union firing an employee is very hard because of the EU's strong social laws. But we know the US is a capitalist country, so how about the US?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daeg (828071)
      Depends on the state. Florida, for instance, is an at-will state. I can fire my staff for no reason at all other than I felt like firing them. Sure, they could collect unemployment. Or I could find some minor detail, for instance, them using too many sick days. Employment agreements/handbooks are a mile thick now, detailing a hundred different things that lead to termination. Other states make it harder.
      • For your reference (Score:2, Informative)

        by SIIHP (1128921)
        You still can't discriminate if Florida. I know this from personal experience (dealt with a ton of ADA claims in a previous job) so, no, even in Florida age discrimination is illegal.

        The difference is, you don't have to give cause. So you could fire someone, give no reason, and the onus would be on them to make a case for discrimination.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      By the way, what reasons are accepted for firing someone?

      None.

      Employers often circumvent discrimination litigation here by forcing us to sign "at-will' employment agreements before getting hired. The company reserves the right to discharge you at any time for any reason whatsoever.

      The only protections are those mandated by federal law. You can't be fired for being female, or black, or Jewish, for example (if you can prove in a court of law that this is in fact what happened, heh heh). But on the other

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by operagost (62405)
        I can understand why a person would not be in favor of at-will employment laws, but keep in mind they also protect the employee to the extent that he can resign at any time without penalty by his employer. This should render any non-compete "agreements" useless, as they are not contracts and the employment is still at-will. Of course, this doesn't mean your hostile ex-employer won't try to haul you into court to prove it.
        • by plague3106 (71849)
          You don't need at-will employment laws to give employees the right to leave without penalty. States without (and from my what HR manager tells me, more and more states are abandoning at-will) you need an actual reason to let someone go. Which is how it should be. If I'm doing a good job, but my manager or someone else just doesn't like me, why should they be able to fire me? Likewise, if my company is not doing a good job (no raises, too much overtime, etc.) why should I not be allowed to leave?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    At Stanford tenured people retire after 70. Two of my neighbors are Stanford professors and over 80, they both retired at 70+, but still go every day to work, publish lots of scientific papers, have research grants and hire other people to work for them, etc. Sure thery dont receive salaries from Stanford anymore but otherwise they are like any tenured Stanford employees retired or not, have nice offices, unrestricted accounts, secretaries, etc.
    The guy should have stayed at Stanford. He wanted big money f
    • by andreyw (798182)
      He didn't get what he deserved. You don't ever deserve discrimination.

      Fuck Google.
    • He didn't get tenure (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Friday October 05, 2007 @12:26PM (#20869333) Homepage

      He didn't get tenure at Stanford. Probably because he was too practical and commercial for Stanford CS of that period. (Back then, Stanford CS was part of Arts and Sciences and dominated by logicians and "expert systems" types. CS was moved to the School of Engineering around 1985). So he went to DEC, which used to have a very good research facility in Palo Alto. He ran their network R&D. When Compaq (remember Compaq? IBM PC clones?) bought DEC, they phased out software research, because Compaq didn't do much software. So he went to Bell Labs in Silicon Valley, which also shut down as Bellcore retreated from research.

      Google hired him because he'd done AltaVista, the first big search engine. (Which, amusingly, was done as a demo for the DEC Alpha CPU.)

      It's no longer fun being a theoretical computer scientist in Silicon Valley. All the great corporate labs are gone. Along with the ones mentioned above, HP Labs, PARC, and IBM Almaden have also tanked. Google, Microsoft, and Intel still do a little theoretical work, but not that much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rs79 (71822)
        " When Compaq (remember Compaq? IBM PC clones?) bought DEC, they phased out software research, because Compaq didn't do much software. "

        The day Compaq shut down the NSL he was supposed to meet me in New York to talk to Ira Magaziner about the DNS mess. When he wasn't there we exchanged some email as to why. As he put it "Compaq didn't get enough money to be able to buy DEC by being innovative". While a great quote my favorite BKR quote is "Never mistake truth for consensus"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PerlDiver (17534)
        I worked for Brian Reid at DEC; he's brilliant and few can rival his record of accomplishments. And based on my own experience interviewing at Google, I'd have to say he's 100% right on in this suit.

        I had occasion to interview recently with both VMWare (in 2005) and Google (in 2006). The two experiences were as different as night and day.

        At VMWare, every interviewer who met with me arrived on time, demonstrated that he or she had read my resume, and asked pertinent questions about my experience and skills.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday October 05, 2007 @10:46AM (#20867709) Homepage Journal
    Go figure - someone who runs around saying "I'm cool I'm good I'm hip" is really just a bottomline driven corporate husk.
  • Culturally fit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hernyo (770695) <laszlo.hermann@gmail.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @11:07AM (#20868011)
    It seems that besides being a good engineer you have to be "culturally fit".

    I kinda agree: a pessimistic or unsociable person could endanger the spirit and the enthusiasm of others. I would not like to work with a highly intelligent but depressive person, if his depression would affect my everyday mood. Not to mention if the guy is the PM.

    On the other hand, I would be fucking upset for being fired because of not fitting into the company's social standards.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chrome (3506)
      No, I think what they mean is that you should fit within the company culture. Not that you are culturally fit. An amusing concept thought it is.

      Hands up all those who interviewed at Google, seemed to be going great then got told "no" because you weren't a fit, culturally?

      *holds up hand*

      I think its the standard corporate response to someone that they don't like. Its weasel speak for "One of our managers didn't like you but rather than just say that we'll say that you're not a good fit, culturally. When reall
      • Shrug. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
        It's as good a reason as any. I know whenever I interview someone, I try to get a feel for what they'd be like to work with. I'll pick a less qualified candidate with a better manner over a more qualified jackass. It's not just their output you have to consider...It's everyone's output.

        Corporate culture is more of an ephemeral. They clearly want people to fit in and participate, and that's understandable. I think, however, that they need to be more up-front about it.

        I work with a lot of people who are older
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rs79 (71822)
          "I agree with some of the above posters. The guy was an idiot to leave his university job. You chase the dollar signs, you lose. "

          Google persued him, to fix some personel problems they were having with women employees, which he did. Brian is very very very good with people. He was very quickly made director or vp of engineering or operations or something based on his glowing performance; TFA points out his only written review was "glowing".

          He was only at Stanford a couple of years. He was the Director of t
          • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
            Uh huh. He's smart so he can't ever do anything stupid? I've known people so smart that they were often mistaken for being mentally retarded...Intelligence doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being able to make a good decision, and often the smartest people are hopeless when it comes to day to day decision making.

            In short, smart people do stupid things all the time; if you haven't noticed this, you don't know many smart people.

            He got pursued by a young, hip company, to fix a specific problem. That
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by rs79 (71822)
              I'm not sure what your point it given you said you'd do what he's doing. Will it take a while? Sure. Are the stakes high? Now that Goog is $600/share, uh, yeah, they couldn't be much higher given he had pre-IPO options. A lot of them.

              The guy invented the web search engine and is one of the top computer scientists of all time. There's zero chance he's not an asset to Google. If you actually knew the man you'd know this. Don't guess.

              Don't be so sure he doesn't have people lining up to hire him. Just because h
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rs79 (71822)
      "It seems that besides being a good engineer you have to be "culturally fit".

      I kinda agree: a pessimistic or unsociable person could endanger the spirit and the enthusiasm of others. I would not like to work with a highly intelligent but depressive person, if his depression would affect my everyday mood. Not to mention if the guy is the PM.

      On the other hand, I would be fucking upset for being fired because of not fitting into the company's social standards
      "

      I know Brian very very well. He's one of the most
  • Discriminating is the act of choosing among different possibilities. Google is discriminating against athletes by by hiring mostly good programmers instead of professional skateboarders. That what discriminating means: choosing.

    Politicians have turned the meaning towards : discriminating on criterions we don't judge relevant to do the job. There are two problems with that.

    - Mind your own business. If I hire someone to do a job, it's my money I am free to choose whatever absurd criterion I like. By hiring so
    • Politicians have turned the meaning towards : discriminating on criterions we don't judge relevant to do the job. There are two problems with that.

      Huh?

      I've always heard it as "You can't be discriminated against based on race, age, sex, etc." this is the same as "You can't be eliminated from being chosen based on ...."

      We labeled the act as "Racial Discrimination" or "Age Discrimination" these are nouns, and are used to convey "To be discriminated against based on race" or "To be discriminated against base

      • by Arthur B. (806360)
        I've always heard it as "You can't be discriminated against based on race, age, sex, etc." this is the same as "You can't be eliminated from being chosen based on ...."

        Obviously you can... a black woman cannot sue a studio for not giving her the part of Adolf Hitler in a movie. Same for strippers.

        The lawmakers simply gave these categories as categories that they think ought not be relevant to be able to do the job. If you can prove it is (the burden of proof is on you and it's hard and very expensive)

        That
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      By the example you chose, you show how absurd discrimination, in the sense it's usually used, actually is in terms of hiring practices. Google doesn't discriminate against athletes at all (AFAIK) -- if you happen to be a skateboarder who's also a good programmer, they'll hire you without caring about what else you do with your time. OTOH, if they do care about your skateboarding, they're idiots. Unfortunately, in some specific categories -- historically the big ones have been race, sex, religion, and yes
  • The law says that you cant discriminate against anyone because of their age... as long as they are over 40.

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ( ADEA ) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age

    I love the hard lower limit, it would be a shame to protect all people equally.

    IMO it should eb ruled unconstitutional, but of course nobody under 40 votes, so that will never happen.
  • Karma is a bitch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday October 05, 2007 @11:43AM (#20868523)
    Don't worry, pretty soon Google will be getting old in Internet years and we will soon discriminate against it for a younger "more hip" search engine.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @04:44AM (#20877593)
    I have long been leery of some of the things Google has done, all the while saying "Do no evil". I know the concept of discrimination being evil has already been discussed here, but that is just the icing on the cake they have been baking for years.

    Google has collected and archived so much personal data -- much of it collected in ways that could honestly be called "sneaky" -- that they practically invited the government to subpoena their records... which it did. They did not record that personal data for the benefit of their users. It is for the benefit of themselves, and their corporate customers who pay for that data. When you factor in their methods and intentions, that definitely falls on the "evil" side of the fence.

    Google agreed to help China censor its internet, claiming that "we would lose business otherwise" and "if we did not do it, someone else would." Now, wait... since when is one allowed to just dump one's ethics for those reasons? People of higher integrity (or less greed) would have said "No!" Trading ethics for money is "classic" evil behavior. There are so many stories and movies and even ancient fairy tales about that, you would think people would see it coming...

    Their youth does not impress me. They have behaved like a bunch of greedy young punks. Their "new" services are things that people have been talking about for many years but never bothered to actually do... for good reasons! They were bad ideas. Anybody who wants to do word processing on someone else's web server is an idiot. That is just one example, of course, but other than some searching and Google Maps (which was really just an incremental improvement of what Microsoft was already providing), they are not doing anything I want. And I think I will go back to Yahoo for my searches.

    Google had a very good idea in their original search algorithms... then they took that idea and grew it into a behemoth of a company that is unethical, of little interest, and hardly worth my time.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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