Enlarge /. Sunset over the Google empire.
A new report claims that Google employees who report gender or racial harassment or discrimination are routinely asked to take “medical leave” and undergo mental treatment – only to be brushed aside when they try to come back.
Nearly a dozen current and former Google employees told NBC News that the company's human resources department had instructed the company to undergo mental health treatment or take vacation "after colleagues made comments about their skin color or black hairstyle, or asked if whether they are sexually interested in their teammates ". Another dozen current and former Google employees told NBC that the practice was common at the company.
"I can think of 10 people I have known in the last year who went on mental health vacation because of their treatment," a former Google employee told NBC News. He himself had taken medical leave "after saying he had had numerous unproductive conversations with Human Resources about how his colleagues discussed race."
The main purpose of these breaks was to push people out of the organization quickly or slowly, sources said. Several employees told NBC that they would be reassigned to new managers or new parts of the company on their return from a recommended vacation. These changes, in turn, suppressed positive performance reviews due to insufficient time to build new relationships and work experiences. As a result, these employees did not get promotions or raise when they could have otherwise.
Another employee told NBC that after being racist at Google, he had accepted an offer to take medical leave and move to a different position when he returned. However, upon return, the employee was turned down by every single internal role he had applied for and had to leave Google.
Google spokeswoman Jennifer Rodstrom told NBC the company has "a well-defined process for employees to raise concerns, and we are working to be extremely transparent about how we deal with complaints" and take decisive action against employees who oppose ours Violate guidelines. "
Women, especially black and Latin American women, say they are drastically underrepresented on Google on Google.
Google's 2020 Diversity Report (PDF) found that a total of 51.7 percent white and 41.9 percent Asian employees were Google employees. Black workers made up just 3.7 percent of the company's workforce in 2020, and Latinx workers made up 5.9 percent. (Less than 1 percent of Google employees were Native Americans.)
The picture becomes even more gender specific. Worldwide, 68 percent of Google employees are men and 32 percent are women. According to the report, only 2 percent of all Google employees are Latinx women and 1.6 percent are black women. The numbers are even worse when it comes to management positions within the company, of which around 66 percent are held by white employees.
In addition to diversity, Google's diversity report also focuses on inclusion. This helps companies retain employees who have a sense of belonging and support rather than a sense of tokenism or emphasis. However, recent events and reports cast doubts as to the effectiveness of these efforts.
In particular, the departure of the well-known AI ethics boss Timnit Gebru in December has put Google's efforts towards inclusivity in the spotlight. Google said Gebru resigned, but Gebru (who is black) said Google kicked her out and described a pervasive attitude within the company to silence marginalized voices, including women and people of color.
Gebru said she was also told to undergo mental health treatment when she reported problems with treating women on Google to her managers. "And I would answer that no support system will get rid of Google's hostile work environment," Gebru told NBC.
Google has faced several lawsuits in the past few years related to its handling of sexual harassment and racial discrimination in the workplace. A trio of former Google employees sued in 2017 because women in the company were systematically pushed into low-paying jobs. In a 2018 lawsuit, Google was accused of promoting a "bro culture" with retaliation against women who complained of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Thousands of employees went on strike in 2018 to protest Google's handling of sexual harassment allegations. Three senior executives reportedly received multi-million dollar payouts to leave the company after alleged of credible wrongdoing. Shareholders sued Alphabet, Google's parent company, following the allegations. Google settled that lawsuit in 2020.
Earlier this year, Google also agreed to reach an agreement with federal regulators on allegations that it systematically underpaid software developers and wrongly passed over women and Asian candidates for software development roles.