The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is investigating tech giant Google over how it treats black female workers. The state regulator has apparently received multiple complaints on the matter.
According to sources who spoke to Reuters anonymously to avoid any professional repercussions at Google, analysts and attorneys from DFEH have been interviewing black women working at the company, inquiring about their workplace experiences.
The interviews have mostly been centered on incidences of discrimination and harassment they have faced at Google. When contacted by the media outlet, DFEH refused to comment. Google said that it is focused on building “sustainable equity” for Black workers.
“Our goal is to ensure that every employee experiences Google as an inclusive workplace and we’ve been focused on building sustainable equity for Google’s Black community,” Google Spokesperson Shannon Newberry said in a statement to The Verge.
She insisted that Google has invested in retention programs to ensure that black employees feel more welcomed at the workplace. 2020 was the “largest year” for the tech company when it comes to hiring “black +” Googlers in both tech and overall roles.
“Black +” is a designation referring to people coming from several races. According to company data, workers who identified as “black + female” resigned from Google last year at a far higher rate than people from any other gender-racial group except for those who identified as “Native American + female.”
Last year, a black female employee Timnit Gebru was fired from her job at the company after writing an email to colleagues expressing her frustration at the lack of gender diversity in Google’s Artificial Intelligence unit.
She blamed Caucasian men at the company for her termination. According to Jeff Dean, head of the AI unit at Google, Gebru threatened resignation if she was not informed as to which colleagues deemed one of her draft papers as unpublishable.
“Nothing like a bunch of privileged White men trying to squash research by marginalized communities for marginalized communities by ordering them to STOP with ZERO conversation. The amount of disrespect is incredible. Every time I think about it my blood starts boiling again,” Gebru said in a Nov. 26 tweet.
Erika Munro Kennerly, an employee at Google who oversaw the company’s strategy and diversity teams, said in an interview with Corporate Counsel magazine this January that there was an “overall tone of being undervalued” as a black woman at the workplace.
She resigned from her post last year. In February, Google announced an initiative to provide digital skills training for 100,000 black women, with the aim of getting them into the tech industry by Spring 2022.
People from other races have also complained of being subjected to harassment at the company. In March, an NBC investigation revealed that Google advised its employees with mental health care when they complained of being subjected to sexism and racism. In one incident, a Mexican American who complained about a skin color comment from a colleague was asked to seek medical care.
“After I made that complaint, my work started getting pushed out from under me, but my team acted like everything was fine. I wanted to find help… When the medical leave was recommended to me, it was like an automatic process,” Cruz said to the media outlet.