Mountain View Voice

News - May 28, 2010

High court takes on Google age-bias case

An age discrimination case against Mountain View-based Google will be argued before the California Supreme Court at a hearing in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Brian Reid, 60, claims the Internet search giant unfairly fired him in 2004 because of his age.

He alleges that a younger supervisor's remarks that he was "sluggish" and that his ideas were "too old to matter" and co-workers' comments that he was an "old fuddy-duddy" show that he was fired because he didn't fit in with Google's youthful culture.

Reid, who had been an assistant professor at Stanford University and had worked in Silicon Valley, was hired in 2002 to be the then-startup company's director of operations and engineering.

He was fired one year and 10 months later when a lesser position he had been transferred to was terminated.

Google contends he was fired because the company wasn't satisfied with his performance and not for reasons to do with age.

The seven justices of the state high court won't be deciding whether Reid was in fact discriminated against, only whether he can have a trial on his lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the state Court of Appeal in San Jose reinstated it, and Google has appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The court will have three months to issue a decision after Wednesday's hour-long hearing.

A key issue in the case is whether judges and juries should be allowed to consider so-called "stray remarks."

Google claims the alleged comments by Reid's supervisor and co-workers are not relevant to the case because they were either not based on age or were not made by people with decision-making authority over his employment.

—Bay City News Service

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