The California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that an age discrimination lawsuit brought against Google Inc. can proceed to trial. The lawsuit was brought against Google by Brian Reid, who was employed by the company from 2002 to 2004 until being terminated. Google had disputed whether there was enough potential evidence of age discrimination to justify the case going to trial. Particularly, the disagreement between both sides centered on whether "stray remarks" made by colleagues of Reid's were enough to show discrimination or bias on the part of the company toward him.
Previously, employers had used the "stray remarks" doctrine, set by a U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1989, to protect themselves from liability for a manager's offensive comments about an employee who is later demoted or fired. Google had sought to have the case dismissed, saying any evidence of discriminatory comments Reid had to bolster his case amounted to "stray remarks" made by employees who had no authority over his hiring or firing.
Employment law experts are saying that this ruling is a win for employees. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal says that this ruling will make it easier for employees to get their case heard by a jury and will make it more difficult for employers to defeat discrimination claims early in the process.
Google Is Set Back in Age-Bias Case In Ruling With Broad Implications (The Wall Street Journal)