Friday, August 6, 2010

Google's Age Bias Problem-Update

Back in May, Bad Lawyer reported Google's age bias problem as it related to Brian Reid, a legendary engineer. who was recruited to work for the then tech start up but ultimately not deemed a "good fit" within the emerging youth culture at the soon to become tech behemoth. 

As I told you then:  "[W]ithin two years, Google decided that the 54-year-old Reid was not a 'cultural fit' for the company and fired him, allegedly after co-workers had described him as 'an old man,' 'slow,' 'sluggish' and 'an old fuddy-duddy.' Reid responded with an age discrimination lawsuit blasting Google's 20-something culture for shunning his generation in the workplace."

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Mr. Reid's favor reversing a lower appellate court decision on the application of the "stray remarks" doctrine to age discrimination complaints.  This is a huge victory for older workers who face enormous obstacles in proving age discrimination claims and huge loss for employers.  The ruling makes it difficult to use the stray remarks doctrine in motions designed to obtain summary judgment for employers seeking to get courts to toss claims. 

Interestingly, California's Supreme Court held that a trial judge's failure to rule on evidentiary objections at a summary judgment hearing makes for an implied overruling, preserving them for appellate review. Which is how the Sixthth District Court of Appeals in Silicon Valley treated Google's objections, reversing a trial court judgment against Google. Application of the stray remarks doctrine results in a trial court's "exclusion of evidence even if the evidence was relevant," wrote Justice Ming Chin. "An age-based remark not made directly in the context of an employment decision or uttered by a non-decision-maker may be relevant, circumstantial evidence of discrimination."
This is a big deal for employment lawyers.  Back in May, I told you this was coming.  Sometimes, the right result happens.  This was the right result.

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