Co-Workers' Discriminatory Comments Can Get Your Case To The Jury

August 6, 2010

As a Massachusetts employment lawyer, I follow cases from around the country that may be of interest to potential clients in Massachusetts.

The California Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a former Google executive who brought an age discrimination suit against the company, clearing the way for a trial over whether his firing was discriminatory. A trial court had originally granted Google's summary judgment motion against Reid's claims, but an appeals court reversed that decision.

The Supreme Court affirmed a San Jose appeals court's earlier conclusion that Brian Reid, who was fired from his job as Google's engineering director in 2004, was entitled to take his case to trial because he had presented enough evidence for a review of whether the company engaged in age discrimination.

Evidence in the record included alleged discriminatory comments made by decision makers and coworkers.

Reid had managed the team that built one of the first Internet search engines at AltaVista, in 2002. The company fired Reid, then 54, within two years, because he was not a "cultural fit" for the company, after co-workers and a supervisor had allegedly described him as "an old man, " "slow, " "sluggish" and "an old fuddy-duddy."

Reid responded with an age discrimination lawsuit in 2004. In court papers, Reid alleged Google's poor treatment of older workers started at the top with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and filtered through management. He maintained he is owed tens of millions of dollars lost in stock options from his firing.

A Google spokesman said today that Reid's termination was not discriminatory and that Google is ready to defend its actions in a trial.

While it is not necessarily an indication of discrimination, federal data shows that Silicon Valley computer workers tend to be much younger than the valley's general workforce, at least during the past decade.

While 21 percent of the workers at Santa Clara County companies were over 50, just 9 percent of computer workers were over 50. That data covers a range of computer related occupations, including software engineers, database administrators, programmers, computer scientists and computer and information systems managers. Data from the 2010 Census is not yet available.

Discriminatory comments and employment statistics can be powerful evidence in discrimination cases, whether the case is brought in California or Massachusetts.

For more information or if you believe you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation contact The Brown Law Firm, LLC, a Massachusetts law firm dedicated to business law and protecting employees' rights in the workplace.