A former Google employee has filed a lawsuit in California which paints a dark and disturbing picture of the culture at one of the world’s largest firms if the allegations are true.
Software engineer Loretta Lee is accusing Google of violating several instances of California’s Fair Employment and Housing act by discriminating against her, failing to prevent sexual harassment and wrongful termination of her employment.
The software engineer joined the firm in 2008 and was a rising star at Google according to the lawsuit. Lee says she was responsible for coding the first Google company-wide contest and frequently received excellent performance reviews.
“Plaintiff was one of very few female Software Engineers working for Google. For many years, she endured a male-dominated work environment permeated by sexual harassment,” reads the lawsuit.
This harassment allegations included but are not limited to:
- Male colleagues texting her asking if she would like a “horizontal hug”.
- A male colleague showing up at her apartment with a bottle of liquor offering to fix a problem with one of her devices. When asked to leave by Lee he refused.
- A co-worker hiding under her desk and jumping out shouting “You’ll never know what I was doing!”.
The list of incidents is available in the court filing via The Register.
These harassment claims form part of Lee’s bigger allegation against Google – wrongful termination.
The engineer says that in July 2015 she took time off from work to assess her mental health. She returned to work on 3rd November 2015 only to be rear-ended by a drunken driver on 15th November 2015.
Lee then claims that Google said it would accommodate Lee’s need for physical therapy for the pain caused by the accident only to be told that she “better be doing that on [her] own time.”
Google then allegedly gave Lee three options: leave Google with a severance package, agree to maintain regular attendance meeting performance expectations and exhibit professional behaviour, or take medical leave to attend to her mental health issues and return to work adhering to guidelines set out in written warnings.
On 4th February 2016 Lee went on medical leave and on 22nd February 2016, after returning to work, she was handed a final written warning. The next day Lee says she was fired.
Lee is looking for compensation for damages including economic damages, emotional and physical distress, and for any punitive or penalty damages allowed under California law.
When asked about the case Google said “We have strong policies against harassment in the workplace and review every complaint we receive. We take action when we find violations – including termination of employment.”