“Don’t be evil” is no longer the unofficial motto of Google, and it appears that the company would prefer to turn its back on staff members at best or even retaliate against them rather than look into their complaints.
A leaked document circulated within Google shows that dozens of employees have reported incidents of racism, discrimination, harassment and gaslighting.
The existence of the document, dated 8 May, was first reported by Vox’s tech news site Recode earlier this month. It has recently been obtained by Mortherboard, which published it in full (click here to access).
The 21-page memo contains 45 stories with harrowing headlines such as “Threatened to keep quiet”, “My 10+ years of experience and trajectory was sabotaged for reporting unethical behaviour”, “Fearful of physical retaliation”, “Moved to a new office to avoid abuse”, and “No one feels safe enough to speak up”.
One person wrote: “The months-long investigation that ethics and compliance subjected me to was a campaign of gaslighting and harassment in an attempt to discredit me and my claims… Even after my original claims of retaliation were substantiated by the investigation, the underlying concerns of unethical behaviour were not addressed. The person who had been perpetuating the retaliation simply received additional ‘managerial coaching’.”
Another employee, a self-described 'LatinX woman', said she had complained to HR about “blatant racist and sexist things” from her coworker, but her report was ignored and she was warned that “things will get very serious” if she continued.
Still another woman wrote she had reported harassment from a coworker, who had a lower rank, and HR “fully substantiated” her claim. She was later “moved off and to another project”, which she says has slowed down her career trajectory. “Eventually, the same person harassed another woman. The incident was reported and also substantiated by HR, but like me, the woman was simply moved to another, less impactful project, and her career trajectory similarly slowed down,” she stated, adding that the harasser kept their job.
In other instances, HR would drop cases of harassment, discrimination and using the N-word in jokes, while the complainants either were retaliated against or felt afraid of retaliation.
All Cases are Investigated 'Rigorously', Google Says
The company has neither confirmed nor denied the veracity of the leaked allegations. However, a top executive said Google has taken steps to increase transparency and make it easier for employees to report their concerns.
“All instances of inappropriate conduct reported to us are investigated rigorously, and over the past year we have simplified how employees can raise concerns and provided more transparency into the investigations process at Google,” Eileen Naughton, deputy chief of people operations, said in a statement. “We work to be extremely transparent about how we handle complaints and the action we take.”
Eleven Months Since the Google Walkout
The damning stories have surfaced at a time when Google is under increased scrutiny over allegations of covering up sexual harassment and discrimination, following reports that Google paid out a total of $135 million to two of its top executives who were accused of sexual misconduct.
Last November, around 20,000 Googlers organised a global protest, demanding that the company stop forcing employees into arbitration (a practice that requires employees to resolve workplace disputes within the company rather than take them to court), commit to equal pay and job opportunities, publish a sexual harassment transparency report, and build a system for employees to submit accounts of sexual harassment anonymously.
The company did make some changes but failed to address all of the demands. Two of the core Walkout organisers, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, later claimed to have been punished by Google for their role in the protests. Google denied there had been any retaliation.