- A 72-year-old former Google employee has sued the company, claiming he experienced numerous instances of age-based harassment, discrimination and intimidation according to court documents posted by Forbes (Broome v. Google, Inc., No. 19-cv-354620 (Calif. Superior Ct. Sept. 5, 2019)).
- Rodney Broome alleged a laundry list of insults and threats by his supervisor who said Broome was "in retirement mode" and would "be leaving soon." The supervisor also made comments to others, directing them, for example to "go tell Grandpa to pick up the pace." Broome also said he was told he would soon be having "car trouble" shortly before his car was broken into and burglarized. The supervisor also allegedly made Broome move heavy piles of materials by himself and took chairs away from Broome and other older employees.
- Broome said he complained to both his supervisor's boss and to HR, but the harassment continued; Broome then allegedly suffered retaliation in the form of poor performance reviews, reduced bonuses and physical threats, among other things. He eventually quit, citing stress and health concerns.
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.
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."
As the allegations in this suit show, however, age bias can be more blatant. 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.
Whenever an employee alleges harassment, discrimination or other misconduct, it's important for HR to conduct a prompt, thorough and fair investigation, experts say. It's also important to create a corporate culture where employees feel comfortable raising concerns in the first place. Attorney Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris, says HR should actually thank employees for complaining rather than discouraging complaints, or tolerating retaliation against those who bring them. Employees need to know their complaints will be taken seriously and treated in a respectful manner, he said at a recent conference.