A software engineer who worked at Google for seven years and fired in February 2016, is suing Google for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. The engineer says in her lawsuit that the company’s “bro-culture” led to continuous harassment and that Google did nothing to intervene.
Throughout her time at Google, she was routinely sexually harassed, according to her lawsuit. She stated male coworkers spiked her drinks with alcohol and shot nerf guns at her regularly, and she says one male co-worker messaged her to ask for a “horizontal hug.” At a holiday party, Lee’s lawsuit says, a male co-worker slapped her across the face while he was intoxicated.
In one particularly disturbing incident detailed in the lawsuit, a male coworker hiding under her desk when she returned after a short break. He refused to say what he was doing, the lawsuit says. “The incident with the co-worker under her desk really shocked her and had her nervous. The Plaintiff had never spoken to that co-worker before. She was frightened by his comment and believed he may have installed some type of camera or similar device under her desk,” the lawsuit says. Google’s human resources department pressured Lee during a series of meetings to make a formal complaint about the incident. However, her claims were found to be “unsubstantiated,” emboldening her coworkers to continue the harassment after she complained whereby, co-workers retaliated making it difficult for her to perform. She was subsequently terminated.
This lawsuit is reminiscent of those raised last year by the engineer who blew the whistle about systemic sexual harassment at Uber.
The treatment of women has put Google on the hot seat in recent months. It’s being sued by women who allege Google pays them less than men and investigated by the Labor Department into what it says is “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” Google says its own analysis of employee compensation shows no gender pay gap.
At the same time, Google has encountered resistance from within its own ranks to diversity efforts to hire more women and people of color.