Google has been hit with another lawsuit, this time from a former employee who says she was subjected to constant harassment due to “bro culture” within the organization. As reported by Gizmodo, the suit alleges that Loretta Lee, a former software engineer, had to endure lewd comments, pranks, and even physical violence from coworkers.
Lee worked at Google for seven years before being fired in February 2016, and is suing the company for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. She says Google did nothing to intervene. The lawsuit outlines a number of instances of harassment, including male colleagues who “spiked her drinks with whiskey and laughed about it”; a co-worker who sent her a message asking if she would like a “horizontal hug”; and one instance where a drunk male colleague slapped her across the face at a holiday party “for no apparent reason.”
The lawsuit also describes an incident where Lee found a male colleague hiding underneath her desk who refused to tell her what he was doing there. Lee says Google’s HR pressured her to make a formal complaint, but she was afraid of reprisal from colleagues. When she initially didn’t file anything, HR noted her “failure to cooperate.” But when Lee said she did file a complaint Google didn’t investigate.
Following the filing of her complaint, Lee’s lawsuit says her male colleagues stalled her projects and stopped approving her coding work. The lawsuit states that Google says Lee was terminated in 2016 for “performance issues,” but notes that she received positive performance reviews during her time at the company.
In a statement to Gizmodo, a Google spokesperson said the company has strong policies against harassment and that it reviews each complaint filed. “We take action when we find violations — including termination of employment,” the spokesperson said.
This lawsuit is only the latest in a string of complaints against Google and other Silicon Valley companies, as former employees have begun speaking out about the tech industry’s harmful culture. These include complaints of sexual harassment, like Lee’s, and of discrimination on both sides of the political spectrum. James Damore, author of a controversial memo in which he argued men and women are biologically suited to different types of work, is suing Google for allegedly discriminating against white, male conservatives. Tim Chevalier, an ex-software developer is also taking the company to court, saying Google fired him over pro-diversity posts he made internally.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has since said that he doesn’t regret firing Damore over his memo, but that he regrets that people “misunderstand that we may have made this for a political belief one way or another.”