Florida Software Engineer Sues Google Over Alleged Age Discrimination

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Robert Heath says Google seemed eager to hire him — until its recruiter found out he was in his 60s. He is now suing the company for age discrimination.
Robert Heath says Google seemed eager to hire him — until its recruiter found out he was in his 60s. He is now suing the company for age discrimination.

A Florida software engineer is suing online giant Google for allegedly turning him down for employment due to his age.

According to a civil complaint filed in Florida court last week, Robert Heath, 64, has worked in the information technology space since the mid-1970s for some of Silicon Valley’s most-prestigious companies, including IBM and Compaq. His resume apparently caught the eye of a Google recruiter in mid-2011, who contacted him about an opening at the California-based company.

The civil complaint describes an odd series of exchanges between Heath and the recruiter, including one during a telephone interview in which Heath claims the recruiter refused to review a test given to him using Google’s own cloud-based word processing service called Google Docs.

The entire exchange left Heath with an uncomfortable feeling — that after speaking with him on the phone, the recruiter determined Heath was not a fit for the company because of his age. Based on the civil complaint, it’s unclear how Heath arrived at this conclusion, but the software engineer noted that a former Google executive had successfully sued the company over a separate age discrimination issue.

Heath is seeking class action status for his lawsuit. A Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the software engineer’s allegations are without merit, and that the company intends to defend itself vigorously.

In his civil complaint, Heath says Google’s median age for software engineers is 29, a figure he apparently took from a website called PayScale. The website listed Google’s median age for software engineers at 29 in 2013; the figure has since been updated to read 30 today.

Read more: Defy Ageism: The Top 10 Careers That Last

The lawsuit comes almost a year after a former engineer with the social media website Twitter sued on the grounds of alleged age discrimination. In that lawsuit, 57-year-old Peter Taylor claimed he was let go from the company for being too old and too sick, something Twitter flatly denied.

Age discrimination lawsuits have been creeping up more and more in recent years as Silicon Valley increasingly looks to younger employees who are believed to have less commitments and more ability to focus on a company’s products and services.

In 2007, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously said that “young people just have simpler lives,” and that “simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

Older workers say the attitude of Silicon Valley hiring younger blood has suddenly left them with advanced degrees and technical expertise that gets them nowhere at some of the industry’s hottest companies and startups. Most of those older workers come from legacy technology companies like Cisco Systems, which has shed more than 4,600 jobs since 2008 according to The New York Times. These days, the hot jobs are at Internet-based companies and startups working on cloud-based and mobile platforms — areas young entrepreneurs and CEOs may incorrectly think older workers are not knowledgeable or otherwise interested in.

But Heath says he was ready and willing to work for Google when the recruiter came knocking in 2011. He says his age and experience may have ultimately been what did him in. As part of his jury demand, the Florida man has asked the court to require Google to post notices “concerning its duty to refrain from discriminating against employees on the basis of age” as well as pay him and his attorneys other unspecified monetary damages and fees.

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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