KEY POINTS

  • More ex-Google employees have spoken about the same issue in recent months, including two prominent black women, Timnit Gebru and April Curley, who were both fired
  • Google defends itself by citing that it has a "well-defined process" through which employees can air their concerns

Close on the heels of Google's Black History Month celebration in February and its introduction of the "search Black-owned near you" feature, the California-based tech giant is facing allegations about its handling of racism and sexism complaints within the company.

According to the allegation, Google's HR reportedly advised mental health leave in response to complaints of racist or sexist behavior among its employees, instead of taking deeper legal investigations.

In an all-out story, NBC spoke with Benjamin Cruz, a former designer at Google's Cloud division who prefers to use the pronouns they/them. Cruz told the network that after they reported a racist incident in 2019 to human resources in which a colleague told them their "skin was far darker" than anticipated, Google recommended they "assume good intent" with their colleague, take a leave of absence and return to a new position.  Cruz, however, was turned down for every job they applied for, forcing them to permanently leave.

CEO Sundar Pichai announces steps to address racism within Google CEO Sundar Pichai announces steps to address racism within Google Photo: Creative Commons

Google rejected to comment on Cruz's allegations, but according to one former Google employee who spoke to the network on the condition of anonymity, taking mental health leave after complaining about working conditions is "normalized" within the business.

Google has long emphasized its dedication to a diverse workforce for years but also received the same fervor of complaints for so long. In 2014, Google became one of the first tech firms to publish an annual diversity study detailing the ethnic and gender composition of its employees. According to the  Google 2020 report, the company's Black hires increased by less than 1% from 2019 to 2020. The number of Latino workers at Google increased by 0.2% in that same year.

However, when former Google employees and two prominent Black women, Timnit Gebru and April Curley, were fired by the company last year, it pretty much invalidated all the numbers the tech giant had released. Both women were well-known for their support for greater diversity in the tech industry, and when their concerns about the company's handling of racial issues became public, they were met with outrage.

Following the publication of the NBC report, several former Google employees reported having had similar experiences.

Jennifer Rodstrom, a Google spokesperson, told NBC that the organization was committed to assisting workers who had concerns about workplace care. "We have a well-defined mechanism for employees to raise issues, and we strive to be highly open about how we treat grievances," they said.

"All complaints are thoroughly investigated, and we take stern action against workers who are the source of the complaint."

Not to mention, Google claims to have many avenues for workers to voice their complaints, and it investigates any allegations of retaliation. Google's Benefits team will consult with an employee on the next steps if they wish to take a leave of absence or have a workplace accommodation, according to Rodstrom.

Indeed, in its 2020 blog titled "Our commitments to racial equity" sent by its CEO Sundar Pichai, Google supports the mental and physical well-being of the POC community by diversifying its network of counselors. The company is aware that feelings of belonging are driven by many factors like "the psychological safety we feel among our teams, the support of our managers and leaders, equitable people processes, and opportunities to grow and develop our careers."

And yet, there is also certainly no mention of concrete legal actions to practice against its racist employees and managers.