Death by HR: Google and Yahoo Age and Sex Discrimination Cases

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[An updated excerpt from Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.]

Another useful tactic for the largest companies is to buy off the Democratic politicians who are promoting labor regulations and can be persuaded to go after some other company provided you send them campaign contributions and hire their friends as lobbyists, as Google has. This has the benefit of being relatively cheap and can hobble your competition. Google has used their campaign contributions to enlist US politicians to defend it from EU antitrust enforcement—David Smith of UK’s Guardian newspaper wrote:

Google has made political donations to 162 members of the US Congress in the latest election cycle, figures show, as concerns grow over the internet giant’s lobbying influence in Washington…. Google enlisted American politicians whose election campaigns it had funded to pressure the European Union in a carefully coordinated campaign to drop a €6bn ($6.5bn) antitrust case that threatens its business in Europe.

The disclosure underlined the close relationship between the company, the US Congress and even the White House, where the chief technology officer is among several ex-Google employees. Critics say that while the firm born in a garage in 1998 tries to present itself as breaking the mould, it has an army of more than a hundred lobbyists and buys influence just as big corporations have done for decades.

Google has reportedly spent more money on federal lobbying than any other company since 2012. And its political action committee has given donations between $1,000 and $10,000 to some 34 senators and 128 members of the House of Representatives in the 2016 cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In the Senate this breaks down as $78,500 to Republicans and $46,500 to Democrats; in the House, as $126,250 to Republicans and $131,500 to Democrats.

Google’s earlier violations of age discrimination laws in hiring went unpunished for years, with one 2004 lawsuit settled out of court. But lawsuits are catching up to them. Patrick Thibodeau at Computerworld wrote:

Just over a year ago, two people who had been turned down after applying for jobs at Google filed a lawsuit against the company. They claimed they were rejected because of their age. Both were over 40. A federal court in San Jose is now being asked to decide whether many others who sought jobs at Google and were also rejected can join this case…. Cheryl Fillekes, a programmer and one of two parties in this case, is pressing forward with this collective-action claim… Fillekes, who earned a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Chicago and who also undertook postdoctoral work at Harvard, said she was invited for in-person interviews on four different occasions and was rejected each time.

The lawsuit alleges Google “engaged in a systematic pattern” of discrimination against people over the age of 40. It cited data from Payscale that put the median age of Google’s workforce at 29, with a margin of error of 4%. It says the median age for computer programmers in the U.S. is 43.

The other party to this case, Robert Heath, a software engineer, was rejected after a technical telephone interview….A trial is scheduled for May 2017. A Google spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

One woman seeking a job at Google said an “interviewer expressed concern about a cultural fit, noting that she might not be up for the ‘lifestyle.'”

According to the court document, this unidentified woman assured the interviewer “that she was willing to work long hours,” but “the interviewer replied that he was still worried that she was not Googley enough.”

The judge broadened the case Oct. 7th to allow other class plaintiffs to enter, so it could get very expensive for Google. Julie Bort at Business Insider writes:

…The judge has approved turning the suit into a “collective action” meaning that people who “interviewed in person with Google for a software engineer, site reliability engineer, or systems engineer position when they were 40 years old or older, and received notice on or after August 28, 2014, that they were refused employment, will have an opportunity to join in the collective action against Google,” the ruling says.

Google says it’s fighting the suit. A spokesperson told us, “We believe the allegations here are without merit and we will continue to defend our position vigorously. We have strong policies against discrimination on any unlawful basis, including age.”

Interestingly, the judge is particularly not buying that “policies” defense from Google, writing in the ruling: “Having such a policy does not necessarily shield a company from a discrimination suit, particularly in light of the evidence and allegations presented here … today, most, if not all, companies are well versed in anti-discrimination and make great efforts to ensure their written policies comply with anti-discrimination law.”

In terms of allegations, one of the plaintiffs alleged that a Google recruiter told her she needed to put the dates of her graduation on her resume so interviewers could determine her age. That same plaintiff argued that she had found seven others who say they had similar experiences at Google. She also presented evidence to the court that the median age of Google’s workforce is 29 while the median age in the US for programmers is 42.8 years old.

Google has about 61,000 employees and we asked Google if the company has publicly released statistics on its median age. Age is not included with the company’s published diversity report, which discusses sex and race. Google didn’t respond.

… Some folks on Hacker News, a site where programmers discuss news items of interest to them, worry that instead of solving the tech industry’s age discrimination problem, it will make it worse. One wrote: “Fallout from this: Companies will go to great lengths to avoid contact with people who submit resumes that imply they are old. No phone screens, no responses. It’s going to be wintertime for folks in their late 30s now.”

Google has actually improved considerably from its early days when you were unlikely to be hired if over 28 — I have friends in my own advanced age group who have done well there. But Google may end up paying dearly for their casual age discrimination.

Yahoo, on the other hand, brought in Marissa Meyer to turn the business around in 2012. It hasn’t gone well… the Economist reports:

A failed turnaround and then, last month, the biggest data breach from a single site in history. Yahoo, an online firm, has had a bad run of news. On October 4th came a fresh blow when Reuters, a newswire, reported that the company had written customised software to scan all incoming e-mail for certain keywords, complying with a request either from America’s National Security Agency or the FBI.

Not only is the entire business of Yahoo worthless if you take away their stake in Alibaba (the Chinese internet sales giant), but Marissa Mayer brought in women executives to feminize the entire organization with a rapidity only possible through blatantly illegal sex discrimination — against men. Ethan Baron at The Mercury News writes about the ongoing sex discrimination case there:

“When Savitt began at Yahoo the top managers reporting to her … including the chief editors of the verticals and magazines, were less than 20 percent female. Within a year and a half those top managers were more than 80 percent female,” the lawsuit said. “Savitt has publicly expressed support for increasing the number of women in media and has intentionally hired and promoted women because of their gender, while terminating, demoting or laying off male employees because of their gender.

“Of the approximately 16 senior-level editorial employees hired or promoted by Savitt … in approximately an 18-month period, 14 of them, or 87 percent, were female,” the lawsuit said.

“Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of (an employee performance-rating system) to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees,” said the suit by Scott Ard filed this week in federal district court in San Jose.

Ard, who worked for Yahoo for 3 ½ years until January 2015, is now editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal. His lawsuit also claims that Yahoo illegally fired large numbers of workers ousted under a performance-rating system imposed by Mayer. That allegation was not tied to gender….

Ard, hired at Yahoo in 2011, said in the suit that until Savitt and Liberman took over management of the firm’s media section in early 2014, he had received performance reviews and stock options reflecting “fully satisfactory” work. But in June 2014, Liberman told him that his role as head of editorial programming for Yahoo’s home page was being given to a woman Liberman had recently hired, the suit said.

Then in January 2015, during a performance review phone call, Liberman told Ard he was fired, effective that day, because “his performance was not satisfactory.”

This will be another reason for Verizon to demand a lower price than it agreed to for purchasing Yahoo, if the allegations are backed up by testimony. Yahoo, of course, is denying all. Expect a settlement. But it’s yet more evidence that Yahoo has been mismanaged.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, to be published Oct. 17th but available now for pre-order in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat…. It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward

One comment

  1. The troubles that Google, Apple and others have been having with the feds on a host of issue may well be why they’re not alarmed by what one might think would bother them terribly—Hillary Clinton’s extremely sloppy attitude toward security.

    What matters to these corporate giants is that she’s not only broken the law and gotten away with it, but that she has demonstrated in a host of ways through her foundation and her time as Secretary of State that she’s quite willing to peddle influence in exchange for money. Google and the rest have lots of money to pay her off.

    In addition, Hillary’s decades of coverup for her leacherous, sexual-predator husband means that, for all her rhetoric, she cares little for the problems of women in the workplace. That’s also a huge plus in Silicon Valley.

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