California investigates Google's treatment of black female employees

The government agency has interviewed a few black women who have worked for Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company


The California civil rights commissioner is investigating Google's treatment of black female employees following allegations of harassment and discrimination, according to two people familiar with the matter and emails from the organization seen by Reuters.

Attorneys and analysts from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) have repeatedly interviewed a few Black women who have worked for Alphabet Inc., a parent company of Google, about their feelings there, according to documents and sources. Sources have discussed the condition of non-disclosure to avoid putting work at risk.

The questions focused on harassment and discrimination in the workplace, according to emails. Negotiations took place just last month, one source said.

DFEH declined to comment.

Google has said it is focused on "creating a fair balance" for its black employees and that 2020 was their biggest year of hiring workers who call it "Black +", a term that includes people of many races.

"Our goal is to ensure that every employee finds Google as an inclusive workplace," he said. "We will continue to focus on this important work and carefully investigate any concerns, to ensure that our work environment is representative and equitable."

DFEH interviewed the employees who lodged the formal complaints and those who did not, say people, indicating that the supervisor had sought further examples of possible misconduct.

The center is involved in ongoing lawsuits against video game companies Tencent Holdings ’Riot Games and Activision Blizzard Inc., allegations of widespread discrimination and harassment.

But its charges do not always lead to lawsuits.

For years black people in the technology industry have said they have been subjected to derogatory remarks and frustrating comments, such as being locked out of offices because security guards and colleagues have been questioning whether they actually work there.

As more black women participate in the work, such complaints have increased. Seven current and former employees of Google told Reuters this year about being looked down upon for projects as Black women and who could be considered as important as colleagues with different backgrounds.

And earlier this year, a NBC News investigation revealed that a number of Black, Latino, and other Google employees who reported incidents of racism and discrimination were ordered to take medical leave. Some say they ended up being fired from their jobs at the company.

Artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru said Google fired him about a year ago for criticizing its lack of diversity of staff and fighting management who opposed the publication of a critical paper he co-wrote. Erika Munro Kennerly, who oversaw various groups and strategies at Google before resigning last year, told Corporate Counsel magazine in January that "there is a tone of contempt" as a black woman at Google.

Employees who identify themselves as “Black Women +” have left Google at the highest rate of any ethnic group other than “Native American” American women last year, according to company data. Google last year said it plans to increase retention by increasing support staff and programs.