Google office building in Zurich, Switzerland. Photo credit:

Lawyers for Google Inc. are pressing to undo and dismiss an age-bias collective action that alleges the Silicon Valley company’s hiring process, including an evaluation of a candidate’s “Googleyness,” favors younger workers more than older.

Google’s attorneys want a California federal trial judge to reconsider an earlier decision to certify a collective action of job candidates who contend the company engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice on intentional age discrimination. The complaint provides a window into the hiring process at the company.

The company’s lawyers at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart also filed papers asking the judge to rule for the company on the merits of the case. Google contends it prohibits employment discrimination of any kind, including age discrimination.

The plaintiffs lawyers at Kotchen & Low dispute there is any new fact or evidence that would support revisiting the certification of the collective action. “Each ‘new’ fact and legal argument raised by Google in its motion was carefully considered, and rejected, by the court,” the plaintiffs attorneys argued in court papers filed on Tuesday.

In Google’s motion for summary judgment, Ogletree partner Brian Berry said the hiring process at the company involves “feedback from numerous Google engineers in a multi-stage, flexible process of consensus decision making.” Candidates who advance to an on-site interview meet with four or five engineers. Google deems only 20.5 percent of onsite job candidates to be qualified for an employment offer.

“The purpose of Google’s interviews is to ‘understand how the candidate would perform at Google,’ ” Berry wrote. Google’s lawyers said the interviews focus mostly on cognitive ability and role-related knowledge.

Candidates are also assessed for their “Googleyness” or culture fit. “Googleyness,” according to court papers, includes traits such as “cares about the team, puts the user first, effectively challenges the status quo, thrives in ambiguity and values feedback.” Google’s internal candidate-tracking system—called gHire—makes note of an applicant’s overall score, an assessment of coding abilities and any experience relevant to Google.

“Plaintiffs allege that Googleyness or culture fit are euphemisms for youth, and that Google interviewers use these criteria to discriminate on the basis of age,” Berry writes. “Their anecdotal evidence that Googleyness is tied to youth is both quantitatively and qualitatively inadequate. The only evidence they have adduced to date is a handful of statements by plaintiffs that recruiters informed them their rejection was due to Googleyness or culture fit, which are facially neutral comments. And they have no evidence that Googleyness is tied to youthfulness.”

The plaintiffs are 260 on-site candidates who were interviewed by more than a 1,000 Google engineers around the country. A model from the plaintiffs’ expert estimated that Google hired nearly 1,200 older candidates during the period covered by the collective action.

“Google’s interview and hiring policies and practices are intentionally discriminatory and/or have caused a disparate impact against applicants age 40 and older, even if the policies and practices were deemed neutral in intent with regard to age,” according to the plaintiffs’ complaint.

A hearing is set for Nov. 15 in San Jose federal district court.


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