A former Google employee on Friday accused the company of systematically discriminating against black workers by placing them in lower-level jobs, paying them less and denying them opportunities to advance.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, seeks class-action status. The plaintiff is April Curley, who worked at Google from 2014 to 2020, when she was fired. While there, Ms. Curley has historically helped bring black employees into the company by designing recruitment programs from black colleges and universities.
“Google deliberately engages in a nationwide pattern or practice of racial discrimination and retaliation and maintains employment policies and practices that have a distinct effect on black workers across the United States,” the complaint states.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was settled out of court in the wake of a series of complaints from black employees over the years about working at Google. Although it has become one of the largest private employers in the United States, the company has struggled to increase racial and gender diversity in its workforce – especially among its high-paid engineering staff.
According to its 2021 Variety Report, 4.4 percent of Google’s U.S. employees were “black +”, including workers of more than one race, one of whom is black. That’s far below the national average of 9.1 percent for digital publishing and search companies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The lawsuit alleges that Google systematically hired black employees at a lower job status than appropriate for their experience. As salaries were linked to job levels, this allowed the company to pay black employees less than their peers.
Qualified black candidates were often considered “googly” inadequate – an arbitrary designation that was a “dog whistle” for racial discrimination, the complaint said. He also said that the company deliberately “hugs” black job candidates with difficult questions so that they perform poorly in interviews, and accused Google of hiring black workers in low-wage and low-level jobs with low probability.
Ms. Curly also stated that she is subject to adverse work environments. During her six years at the company, she said, managers often referred to her as two other black female colleagues. She said she and her colleagues were not allowed to speak or be present during important meetings and that she felt humiliated and sexually harassed when a manager asked her which colleagues she wanted to sleep with.
The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Curly’s salary was slashed and she was reprimanded in 2019 for speaking at team meetings and challenging internal practices. A year later, the company hired Ms. Curly on the Performance Improvement Plan, and she ended her employment in September 2020.