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Too much diversity, not enough diversity; this is a balance that Google just can’t seem get right. Like many businesses, the tech giant has a policy of increasing gender and racial diversity in the workplace with positive discrimination. But unsurprisingly, this has created tensions and the company is being sued on all sides.
Google is being sued for hiring practices allegedly discriminating against white and Asian males. Arne Wilberg, a long-time recruiter for Google and YouTube is suing for wrongful termination, claiming that he was fired for complaining to managers over “illegal” practices, after the company cancelled interviews for candidates that did not fit a certain age, ethnic and gender profile.
Wilberg’s portrait of YouTube depicts a hostile workplace, filled with manipulation, retribution and staff fear of management. He states that many employees in the HR department were uncomfortable with the company’s “Diversity Hiring Practices,” which aimed to only employ “Women, Blacks and LatinX” people and tracked applicants’ data closely.
His complaint states that Google told the hiring team to, “purge entirely any applications by non-diverse employees from the hiring pipeline,” and that:
“Google would carefully track the race and gender of each applicant for a position in its technology workforce and use these characteristics to choose which of the candidates and applicants for technology positions to make offers of employment, and which candidates and applicants to reject.”
Employees were not only concerned because they were asked to discriminate against certain groups, but also because managers objectified the people that it was supposedly trying to promote; one staff member allegedly, “felt the way the team talked about black people in team meetings was like we were talking about black slaves as slave traders on a ship.”
Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano defended the policy, insisting that, “We have a clear policy to hire candidates based on their merit, not their identity. At the same time, we unapologetically try to find a diverse pool of qualified candidates for open roles.”
It should be noted, however, that Wilburg claims Google managers secretly pursued discriminatory hiring practices, despite denying the policy externally. He also claims that the company attempted to hide evidence to that effect:
“Google on occasion would circulate e-mails instructing its employees purge any and all references to the race/gender quotas from its e-mail database in a transparent effort to wipe out any paper trail of Google’s illegal practices.”
HAMMERED FROM EVERY SIDE
Google seems to be at the core of the diversity issue these days, and this isn’t the first time it’s been sued for controversial activity. Former Google engineer James Damore achieved a certain amount of notoriety after penning an internal memo entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” which questioned the company’s diversity procedures. The document got him fired for promoting “harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” After a failed complaint for wrongful termination with the National Labor Relations Board, Damore has teamed up with similar cases to file a class action lawsuit stating that:
“Google’s management goes to extreme—and illegal—lengths to encourage hiring managers to take protected categories such as race and/or gender into consideration as determinative hiring factors, to the detriment of Caucasian and male employees…Google formed opinions about and then treated Plaintiffs not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in groups with assumed characteristics.”
Yet there are complaints in the other direction, too. Google has been criticized for its lack of ethnic and gender diversity, with 69% male and 91% white or Asian employees.
Another former Google engineer Tim Chevalier is suing for wrongful termination after allegedly being fired for being too active in promoting the interests of minorities and objecting to the “discrimination, harassment and white supremacy” he experienced in the aftermath of Damore’s memo. A further lawsuit has been brought accusing Google of pay discrimination against female employees, as discussed by LN’s Andrew Moran.
GOOGLE DIVERSITY WARS
In what has been dubbed a “diversity culture war” by media outlets, Google is struggling to deal with two opposing views within its ranks; one group that approves of positive discrimination to achieve diversity, and another that doesn’t. But the Google conflict is just a microcosm of trends in greater society, and the outcomes will likely affect us all as Google develops a greater monopoly on technology and information distribution.
There is more to the issue than current diversity; once you decide to discriminate in favor of one group, you are automatically discriminating against another. Ultimately we must decide whether we want to discriminate on the basis of race and gender, or whether we don’t – but accepting discrimination now will only beget more discrimination in the future.