In Reid v. Google, Brian Reid, 52, filed age discrimination charges against his former employer when they phased him out of his position with the company. Reid claimed he was terminated because he wasn't a good "cultural fit" with the Internet giant. Google claimed that the allegedly discriminatory comments and behavior Reid cited came from nondecisionmakers and were therefore "stray remarks." Under the Stray Remarks Doctrine, adopted by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 1989, employers are not responsible for inappropriate offhand remarks made by nondecisionmakers. In August, however, the California Supreme Court ruled in Reid's favor, asserting that the totality of the circumstances indicated a larger atmosphere of discrimination within the company.
The California Supreme Court's decision is a victory not just for Reid, but for older workers in general. In 2009, the Supreme Court said in a 5-4 ruling in Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs Inc. that employees claiming age discrimination must show that age was the decisive factor in the biased behavior, not just a motivating factor. Though the Gross decision will make proving age discrimination more difficult, experts say older workers have always had a harder time winning discrimination cases than other protected groups.