Court reinstates age-discrimination lawsuit against Google

Ex-director of operations says he was fired because he didn't fit in with Google's culture

A state appeals court in California has reinstated an age-discrimination lawsuit against Google Inc. that was brought by a former technology manager who claimed Google fired him because he was not a "cultural fit."

The lawsuit brought by Brian Reid had been dismissed by a judge in Santa Clara County, but yesterday the Sixth District Court of Appeals in San Jose overturned that decision, allowing the case to proceed.

Reid was hired at the age of 52 in 2002 as the director of operations and director of engineering. In 2003, he was demoted, and in 2004 he was fired, when he was 54, according to the lawsuit.

In his lawsuit, filed in July 2004, Reid said he worked closely with Google founders Sergey Brin, then 28, and Larry Page, then 29, and that he was fired because he was not a "cultural fit" with the company. According to the lawsuit, Page, who was almost 31 at the time, made the decision to fire Reid.

The lawsuit seeks, among other things, injunctive relief, restitution of lost stock options and attorney fees.

Google, however, claimed Reid was fired because of poor performance.

Google spokesman Jon Murchinson declined to comment on the case except to say: "...As our court filings have said, we believe this complaint to be unfounded and will vigorously defend against it."

Reid declined to comment, referring questions to his lawyer.

The appeals court ruled that a jury should hear evidence that one of Reid's supervisors, Urs Hoelzle, who is 15 years younger than Reid, and others, told him his opinions and ideas were "obsolete" and "too old to matter." He was also told that he was "slow," "fuzzy," lethargic," "did not display a sense of urgency" and "lacked energy," according to court documents. Reid said he was also called, "an old man" and an "old fuddy-duddy" by his colleagues.

Reid, who has a doctorate in computer science, said he was given a positive review by Google's vice president of engineering, Wayne Rosing, who wrote Reid's only written evaluation. Rosing, who was 55 at the time, described Reid in the review as having "an extraordinarily broad range of knowledge concerning operations, engineering in general, and an aptitude and orientation toward operational and IT issues." He also wrote that Reid consistently met expectations. From February 2003 to February 2004, Reid received bonuses, including 12,750 stock options.

However, in the same review, Rosing also wrote: "Adapting to the Google culture is the primary task for the first year here ... Right or wrong, Google is simply different: Younger contributors, inexperienced first-line managers and the super fast pace are just a few examples of the environment."

When Reid was later terminated, it was Rosing who told him he didn't fit in with Google's culture, according to court documents.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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