Google employees protesting last November over the company’s handling of sexual misconduct claims.
Photo: Getty

Last fall, news emerged that Google had issued massive payouts to executives accused of workplace sexual harassment, which prompted 20,000 employees to walkout in protest—an effort to push the company to do better. Now, nearly a year later, the degree of that “better” seems questionable. A dozen current and former Google employees say that they are afraid to report workplace problems for fear of reprisal, according to Recode. These sources say that Google “continues to conceal rather than confront issues ranging from sexual harassment to security concerns, especially when the problems involve high-ranking managers or high-stakes projects.” The Recode report appears to back up these concerns with evidence of a culture of reprisal for employees who filed HR claims and subsequently found their careers stymied.

Previously unreleased internal documents show that dozens of employees allege “that when they filed complaints with Google’s human resources department, they were retaliated against by being demoted, pushed out, or placed on less desirable projects,” reports Recode. The majority of these claims relate to harassment and discrimination, and some of the details are remarkable. In one case, an employee says a manager called a complaint of sexual harassment an overreaction. In another case, an employee alleged she was called an “emotional woman” by her manager before she was passed over for a promotion.

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This news follows a series of high-profile allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at Google. Just last month, a viral memo written by a departing employee alleged pregnancy-related discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at the company. The employee alleged that her manager made sexist remarks about a coworker’s potential pregnancy, prompting her to file a complaint with HR, which then resulted in retribution. When the employee got pregnant herself, she says she was then met with discrimination firsthand.

Earlier this year, as Recode reports, “two Google walkout organizers said they were punished for their activism and left the company” and “a former legal department employee reported being pushed out of her role at the company after having a child with Alphabet’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, who has been accused of having extramarital affairs with several employees, which is a violation of company policy.” (Drummond denies the claims.)

These are just the most recent cases. Several years back, in 2015, Erica Joy Baker, a former Google engineer, says she was punished though withheld bonuses after she “and some of her coworkers created a spreadsheet for employees to self-report their salaries to better understand potential pay inequalities for minorities and women,” reports Recode.

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The newly uncovered internal document details 25 claims of retaliation, 60 percent of which related to harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Six of the claims specifically involved sexual harassment as the reason for initial complaint,” [not sure where the quote begins here]says Recode. In one such case, an employee reported that “when they told their manager that a senior colleague was sexually harassing them, the manager allegedly said that they were ‘overreacting,’” says Recode. “After subsequently opening an investigation with HR, the employee said their manager punished them for speaking out by denying them a promotion nomination from their peers.” When HR ultimately found evidence of harassment and retaliation, the employee claims the alleged harasser was offered coaching but kept their job.

In another notable case, an employee reported “that her boss, who allegedly called her an ‘emotional woman,’ passed her over for a promotion due to gender bias,” says Recode. “When she reported this to HR, she said was eventually moved to a different manager, but she continued to receive a lower salary compared to her male colleagues who she says matched her performance assessments.” In that case, the employee wrote, “My colleagues just keep telling me, ‘stay quiet and do your job, ‘speaking out will just make things worse.’ How is this happening at Google?”

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At this point, perhaps the more important question is: How does this keep happening at Google?