Is Google's "work hard, play hard" recruiting code for age discrimination?

"We have a preference for those who like to work and play hard," the search giant candidly informs potential candidates for openings for a compliance manager, senior internal auditor, financial project analyst, senior internal controls auditor, management accountant, internal audit treasury manager, accounting manager, internal audit manager, and technology risk analyst. Doesn't exactly conjure up the image of a white-haired 58-year-old Type II diabetic, does it?

One of the most significant employment law cases of 2007 was Reid v. Google, Inc., in which the search giant was charged with age discrimination for terminating PhD. computer scientist Brian Reid at the age of 54. Prior to his firing, Reid was reportedly subjected to a plethora of age-related disparagement, made the butt of jokes, and found himself a fish out of water in a "youthful atmosphere" featuring employee participation in hockey, football and skiing. Reid testified that upon being fired, he was told he was not a "cultural fit."

Google maintained it had simply eliminated Reid's dead end job, but in a unanimous decision last fall, the Court of Appeal for the Sixth District wrote:

We conclude that Reid produced sufficient evidence that Google's reasons for terminating him were untrue or pretextual, and that Google acted with discriminatory motive such that a factfinder would conclude Google engaged in age discrimination.

With the case headed to the California Supreme Court, it's all the more incredible that Google is reprising Enron's work-hard-play-hard motto — a red flag for ageism — in its current recruiting. But anything's fair game after using Hitler in your hiring.