Crime & Justice

Ex-Google recruiter sues, says company discriminates against white and Asian men

Google software engineers, from left, Keith Ito, Nicholas Lee, John Leen and Yatin Chawathe, work at the Kirkland, Washington office on October 28, 2009.
Google software engineers, from left, Keith Ito, Nicholas Lee, John Leen and Yatin Chawathe, work at the Kirkland, Washington office on October 28, 2009.
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Google is facing diverse diversity lawsuits.

A former employee is suing the company for allegedly discriminating against white and Asian male applicants as it tries to boost the number of black, Latino and female staffers.

Arne Wilberg worked for seven years as a recruiter at YouTube, which is owned by Google. His job was to court and hire candidates for engineering and technology positions. In court documents filed in January, he alleges Google's "quota-based hiring practices" systematically instructed recruiters to "purge" eligible Caucasian and Asian candidates from potential hiring pools. He says they were told to favor applicants from underrepresented groups within the company. That meant interviewing only Hispanic, African-American or female job seekers.

California labor law prohibits employers from making job decisions based on characteristics like race or gender.

Employees from Taiwan Google join the annual gay parade in Taipei on October 26, 2013.
Employees from Taiwan Google join the annual gay parade in Taipei on October 26, 2013.
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

The lawsuit describes several instances in which Wilberg says he raised concerns with supervisors and human resources executives only to allegedly be retaliated against. Wilberg claims he and other recruiting team members were made to feel "completely uncomfortable and psychologically unsafe" reporting to their boss, a champion of the diversity policies.

He also alleges Google subjected him "to unsubstantiated performance reviews, performance criticisms and [terminated] his employment." Wilberg was fired in November 2017.

The court documents recount alleged conversations wherein several employees complained to Google managers about the company's diversity hiring practices. Although he maintains that Google favored minorities, Wilberg declares that "one recruiter told her peers that she 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." In another encounter, Wilberg recalls, "One team member complained that managers were speaking about blacks like they were objects."

Google has denied the company implemented discriminatory policies toward Caucasian and Asian men. In a statement to Gizmodo, the company said it "will vigorously defend this lawsuit."

Google added:

"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, as this helps us hire the best people, improve our culture, and build better products."

Wilberg's lawsuit is the latest legal attack on Google and its workplace culture.

Just Thursday, Gizmodo reported that a former female software engineer had filed a lawsuit accusing the company of condoning a "bro-culture" that encouraged sexual harassment and turning a blind eye to harmful pranks and physical violence.

In January a woman named Heidi Lamar sued the company on charges that women working as preschool teachers in Google's child care center were paid lower salaries than male counterparts who had fewer qualifications.

Wilberg's lawsuit is also the second asserting that the tech giant discriminates against white men. James Damore, who was fired after criticizing Google's diversity efforts, filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in January. He claimed Google's top brass discriminated against conservative men.

Finally, a Department of Labor official has also accused Google of practicing "systemic" discrimination against female employees.

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