Google Investigated by the State of California Over the Company’s Treatment of Black Female Workers

In early 2021, we reported on a series of race-based issues affecting tech giant Google — including pay discrimination, potentially racist firings and even the creation of a new union designed to help protect employee rights.

But even with a year’s worth of efforts within the company, it appears things for the search engine leader may not be progressing in key areas. In a recent piece for Reuters, Paresh Dave revealed that “California’s civil rights regulator is investigating Google’s treatment of Black female workers following alleged incidents of harassment and discrimination.” The investigation stemmed from emails sent to Reuters by two people familiar with the matter and emails from the agency.

According to Dave, “attorneys and analysts at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) have repeatedly interviewed several Black women who have worked at [Google] about their experiences there, according to the documents and the sources. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing the work.”

Although the DFEH declined to comment on the matter, Reuters said the investigation is “centered on alleged harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” with interviews continuing well into the end of 2021. The DFEH also interviewed both people who have made complaints against the company and those who have not — which some labor advocates suggest could be a sign of searching for additional examples of potential mistreatment.

For its part, Google has repeatedly said the company is focusing on “building sustainable equity,” adding that the last couple of years has been its best period yet for hiring people of color and women in particular.

“Our goal is to ensure that every employee experiences Google as an inclusive workplace,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll continue to focus on this important work and thoroughly investigate any concerns to make sure our workplace is representative and equitable.”

According to Dave, Black men have said they have “faced disparaging comments and discouraging experiences, such as being shut out of offices because security guards and colleagues questioned whether they actually worked there.”

“As more Black women have joined the workforce, such complaints have increased,” Dave said. “Seven current and former Google employees told Reuters this year about being marginalized on projects as Black women, and not taken as seriously as colleagues with different backgrounds.”

Elsewhere, when Google fired high-profile artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru, she claimed her termination was due to her ongoing criticism of a lack of workplace diversity within the organization.

Similarly, after Erika Munro Kennerly — who oversaw diversity and strategy teams at Google — resigned from her position, she told Corporate Counsel magazine that one of the reasons she left the company was because of the “overall tone of being undervalued” as a Black woman within the company.

And even with its ongoing focus on equity and inclusion, Dave reported that Google’s own internal data shows that “workers identifying as ‘Black+ female’ left Google at the highest rate of any racial-gender group other than ‘Native ‘American+ female’ last year.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.