September 23, 2019
As the Baby Boom generation grows grayer, age discrimination in hiring and “elder abuse” on the job are increasing—even (and maybe, especially) at the top tech companies.
A case in point: On September 5, Rodney Broome, a 72-year-old former hardware test engineer for platform engineering at Google filed a complaint (Case No. 19CV354620) in a Santa Clara Superior Court against the Internet search company, asking for damages and a jury trial—and alleging that the company had engaged in:
- Age discrimination;
- Harassment based on age;
- Failure to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct discrimination, harassment, and retaliation;
- Constructive wrongful discharge in violation of public policy;
- Violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing;
- Nonpayment of overtime compensation; and
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Indeed, according to a report by Forbes, Broome had worked at Google for ten years (starting in 2007) and “everything seemed fine” until he reported in to a new supervisor, Ignacio Mendez, in 2017.
Shortly thereafter, the complaint details, Mendez called Broome both “old and slow” and “grandpa.” He chastised him for being “in retirement mode” and told him he was “a worthless piece of sh*t.”
What’s more, according to the suit, Mendez allegedly mentioned to Broome that he might encounter car trouble. Coincidentally, Broome’s car and house were broken into. It was alleged that Mendez bragged about criminal connections, according to court filings.
Forbes notes in its story that Broome brought this matter to the attention of human resources—but to no avail. The complaint reflects that the harassment only intensified.
In fact, Law.com reports, after Broome complained to his manager’s supervisor, Mendez retaliated with poor performance reviews, cut his bonuses and offered his job to two younger employees. After receiving a written warning, Mendez accused Broome of “ratting him out.”
Subsequent to what he described as physical confrontations and continued abuse, Broome resigned in February 2019. Broom’s lawyer, John Winer of Winer, Burritt, & Tillis in Oakland, California, claims that the case is a blatant instance of age discrimination;and part of a pattern of discrimination and harassment due to the company’s youthful culture.
Winer told Forbes, “I think that Google and other companies are far more focused on earnings than they are on human resource issues.” He added, “Instead of attempting to assure that there is no harassment and discrimination in the workforce, in fact it’s rampant.”
Age discrimination remains a pervasive problem in the workplace, and Google itself recently settled an age bias class action for $11 million after 227 plaintiffs claimed the company engaged in systemic age discrimination, HR Dive reports.m, noting that some experts have called age bias the workplace’s “open secret.”
Employers sometimes engage in unintentionally problematic conduct, including prioritizing recruiting efforts in programs that favor younger workers (such as college job fairs) or creating job descriptions that include age-indicative terms such as “digital native.”
While age discrimination often occurs during the hiring process, it is often not as obvious (or easy to prove) as it is when the complainant already has been satisfactorily employed by a company for a considerable length of time.
As the allegations in this suit show, however, age bias often can be more blatant on the job, HR Dive says. In another recent case, a dental practice in Pennsylvania allegedly fired eight of nine hygienists over the age of 40 at a single location and hired 14 new employees—13 of whom were younger than 40.
Research contact: @Forbes