Google is facing a class action lawsuit accusing the tech giant of paying Black employees less, denying them opportunities for advancement, and retaliating against those who reported issues. “Google famously adopted ‘don’t be evil’ as a core value in its early days,” attorneys stated in the suit. “Yet as it grew into one of the world’s largest corporate behemoths, Google practiced one of this nation’s oldest evils—race discrimination.”
Noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump filed the suit seeking class action status on Friday. “Google MUST accept responsibility for underpaying, and mistreating its Black employees,” Crump said in a tweet.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement of appropriate positions for plaintiffs, and payment of lost wages.
Attorneys wrote in the suit:
“Pursuant to its strong, racially biased corporate culture, Google is engaged in a pattern and practice of race discrimination against its African American and Black employees. Google’s centralized leadership, which is nearly devoid of Black representation, holds biased and stereotypical views about the abilities and potential of Black professionals. As a result, and pursuant to company-wide discriminatory policies and practices, Google hires few Black employees and steers those few Black employees into lower-level roles, pays them less, and denies them advancement and leadership roles because of their race. Black Google employees face a hostile work environment and suffer retaliation if they dare to challenge or oppose the company’s discriminatory practices. As a result, Black employees at Google earn and advance less than non-Black employees and suffer higher rates of attrition.”
Attorneys alleged in the suit that Google only employed 628 Black people, representing 1.9% of its workforce of more than 32,000 employees. Only one Black person was counted among 25 “top-level” executives. As of 2021, Google’s workforce “inched up to a dismal 4.4%” Black, including those who identify with more than one race, according to the lawsuit. Black employees represented only 3% of the company’s leadership ranks in 2021, reportedly. That lack of representation came with incidents of discrimination, attorneys said.
“As just one illustration, Black professionals and visitors at Google’s main California campus headquarters were routinely harassed and targeted based on their race, often being questioned by security or asked to show identification,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. “Similarly, in a Google intranet document, Google employees of color shared thousands of ‘microaggressions’ and acts of harassment they faced on a daily basis at Google offices, including being asked to serve their white colleagues or treated as outsiders who did not belong other than in a service or administrative capacity.”
In the case of the plaintiff, April Curley, she was terminated in 2020 after being hired as a program specialist for Google in 2014 to “design and scale a program of outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and to recruit Black students.” Attorneys alleged in the suit that Curley was fired as a form of retaliation for seeking to change the racially discriminatory culture at the company and advocate for others.
“When Google hired Curley, she had been successfully performing a similar role at Teach for America for three years, and held a Master’s degree along with an additional two years of work experience. Yet Google ‘under-leveled’ Curley,” attorneys wrote in the suit. “At the time Google hired her, her Master’s degree and five years of professional experience should have corresponded to Level 5, yet Google assigned her to only Level 3—entry level post-bachelor’s degree—and never promoted her or gave her merit pay increases.”
Curley said according to the suit, that although she attracted more Black students to Google’s technical roles, they were subjected “to more stringent hiring practices than non-Black candidates.”
According to the suit:
“a. Google viewed Black candidates through harmful racial stereotypes and hiring managers deemed Black candidates not “googly” enough, a plain dog whistle for race discrimination;
b. Google interviewers ‘hazed’ and undermined Black candidates, regularly asking level-inappropriate questions of Black candidates to intentionally tank their interview scores.
c. Google hired Black candidates into lower-paying and lower-leveled roles, with less advancement potential, based on their race and racial stereotypes.”
The lawsuit also cited another case in which a court certified a class of more than 10,000 women employed by Google in California who allegedly received less than men because they were assigned to lower salary bands or levels; they were assigned to roles that “do not compensate as highly as those populated largely by men”; and they were promoted at a slower rate and paid less than men performing similar work.
“The practices described above are ongoing and constitute a continuing violation of the civil rights laws,” attorneys wrote. “The racially discriminatory policies and practices at Google are uniform and national in scope. Class members are relying on Plaintiff and this lawsuit to protect their rights.”
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