A leaked document co-written by 45 googlers and reported on by Motherboard details how each was subjected to illegal workplace retaliation after reporting abuse by co-workers or superiors.
Google's in/famous motto, "Don't be evil," is more than an idealistic aphorism: it's also been a key business advantage in recruiting top technical talent from among an incredibly in-demand labor pool. The motto is often understood as "do no wrong," but as the company's founders have always insisted, it's about not being evil, which, in their framework, is doing wrong, and then refusing to admit and rectify the mistake. Engineers and other in-demand workers who were in search of a more fulfilling work environment took this message to heart, and held their employer to account over it, in a series of walkouts, petitions and even resignations over AI/drone contracts with the Pentagon, a secret plan to launch a censored Chinese search engine, the coverup and impunity for Android founder and accused sexual predator Andy Rubin, the creation of an AI ethics board that included far-right, transphobic political hacks and more.
The leaked document, dated May 8, 2019, has circulated widely within Google. Though the retaliation stories detail a variety of different interactions, three themes that run through them are: retaliation against the rare women who rise to senior technical and leadership roles; retaliation against people of color who speak out over racism, and retaliation against employees who raise ethical objections to business and technical plans.
They also detail how employees who faced retaliation were threatened with legal reprisals if they spoke about their cases, and how the abusers they'd blown the whistle on were able to go on abusing other employees.
Google HR executive Eileen Naughton told Motherboard that "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. We work to be extremely transparent about how we handle complaints and the action we take."
"I whistle blew a colleague who used the N-word in jokes. HR found nothing conclusive," wrote another Googler.
An employee wrote: "I was repeatedly harassed and discriminated against by my skip level manager for several years, starting from the first weeks on the team," wrote another Google employee. "I have evidence that I am not the only person on the team who feels this way. But no one feels safe enough to speak up."
"I witnessed first hand (and was told second-hand) of several situations where women were being belittled, insulted and ignored. As the person with the second-longest tenure on the team, I suggested in a few 1:1s that my manager confront some of these issues," wrote another Googler. "Because of my advocacy I was removed from my tech lead position and moved to another team along with the only woman left under my then-manager."
Another Google employee wrote that "when I was sexually harassed on my former team by my [team lead] I quickly reported it to my manager. I was told I was 'overreacting' and that I should just 'get over it.'"
45 Google Employees Explain How They Were Retaliated Against for Reporting Abuse [Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai/Motherboard]