Google hit with age discrimination suit

By Matt Hines CNET News.com July 26, 2004, 10:16 AM PT

A former Google executive has filed an age discrimination suit against the Internet search engine, claiming that he was fired because he did not fit its youthful corporate culture.

In the lawsuit, filed last week in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County, Brian Reid charges that Google routinely discriminates against employees over the age of 40 in its recruiting, hiring and employment practices. Reid, who is 54, contends that he was terminated from his position as director of operations based on his age and ongoing health issues related to diabetes.

Google had little comment on the case. Steve Langdon, a spokesman for the company, said only that it considers Reid's claim to be "without merit" and that it plans to "defend itself vigorously" against the charges. Langdon would not respond to Reid's claim in his suit that he was recruited and hired by Google's founding executives.

The former Google employee has not disclosed the amount of damages he is seeking in the suit, but a portion of the claim revolves around money Reid would have been entitled to based on his stock options and the company's proposed $3.3 billion initial public offering.

In a statement released late Friday, Reid's attorneys assert that Google executives overlook age discrimination laws in an effort to foster a corporate environment that emphasizes "youth and energy." The strategy has led to a work force with an average age of under 30 and with less than 2 percent of employees over 40, according to the claim. Google employed just more than 1,600 people in 2003.

Reid was hired by Google in 2002, in what he characterizes as a "rare senior hire," to manage some of the company's work force issues. After garnering praise and compensation for completion of those tasks, Reid said the environment at Google changed and he was treated differently than other employees, based on his age and medical condition. Reid claims that he was fired without warning in February, after being told that he was no longer "compatible" with the company's corporate culture.

Lawyers for the former Google employee contend that the firing was executed at that particular time to keep Reid from benefiting from Google's IPO, which was announced only nine days after his termination. According to the attorneys, Reid's firing cost him millions of dollars in potential Google stock earnings.

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