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Feeling Harassed? Google Allegedly Says Take a Medical Leave

NBC News published a report asserting that numerous Google employees complained about discrimination, and Google responded by encouraging them to take a medical leave.

Last year, Timnit Gebru and April Curley, both Black women, reportedly each complained to the company’s human resources department and received the same response. The department told them to undergo mental health counseling or take medical leave. In response to the women going public, at least nine additional current and former employees have come forward asserting that Google responded the same way to their complaints. After reporting coworker comments about their skin color or sexually offensive conduct, human resources responded by recommending either therapy or medical leave to seek mental health care. Twelve more employees confirmed the prevalence of this practice to the news organization. One former employee said he finally went on leave after many conversations with Google representatives about race-based exchanges he was subjected to at work. In another example, a Black woman spoke about attending a Google meeting intended to support women within the company. In that meeting, the data showed the company’s high rate of attrition for women from underrepresented groups. Her manager dismissed her complaints. When the woman took her concerns to human resources, the representative told the employee to coach her supervisor on the response or take a medical leave. No support was offered or provided.

Very few of the individuals who go out on these medical breaks are purportedly able to continue working for the company. When the employees return, the company assigns them to new managers or new departments. These changes negatively impact performance reviews because of the shortened time to show performance, resulting in fewer promotions and raises for the employees. One employee reported being turned down for every new position for which they applied upon returning from medical leave, forcing them out of the company.

Google responded to the news report with a statement asserting they thoroughly investigate all claims of discrimination with a transparent and well-defined process. The company’s diversity report shows that Google employees are primarily white and Asian. Women account for only 32% of the workforce, with white women making up most of that number.