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Google reportedly under investigation for how it treats Black female workers

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There have been questions around harassment and discrimination

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is looking into how Google treats its Black female employees, according to a report by Reuters. The report says that the regulator has been asking employees questions about harassment and discrimination, after receiving formal complaints.

The report doesn’t make any mention of the DFEH bringing charges against Google as it did with Activision Blizzard and says that the interviews being conducted don’t necessarily mean that Google could face charges.

According to a diversity report Google released earlier this year, Black women make up around 1.8 percent of its workforce and departed the company at a higher than normal rate. In the report, the company said it had “room for improvement” when it came to keeping underrepresented talent.

We’ve heard about issues relating to equity from former employees. Earlier this year, a lawsuit brought against Google by four former female employees was given class-action status, with the women claiming that they received lower bonuses and salaries than male counterparts. The company also made headlines after AI ethicist Timnit Gebru claimed she was retaliated against and fired for asking the company to be more transparent with its paper publishing process. (Gebru says she faced pushback from the company about her work criticizing its language models.) Another female member of Google’s AI ethics team was also fired after she says she searched her email for evidence of Gebru facing discrimination.

In an emailed statement to The Verge, Google spokesperson Shannon Newberry said that the company has invested in retention programs to make Google a more welcoming place for Black employees. You can read the full statement below.

Our goal is to ensure that every employee experiences Google as an inclusive workplace and we’ve been focused on building sustainable equity for Google’s Black community. For example, 2020 was our largest year ever for hiring Black+ Googlers in the U.S.—both overall and in tech roles—and we’ve also made investments in our retention programs and practices to help Black employees grow and thrive at Google. We’ll continue to focus on this important work and thoroughly investigate any concerns, to make sure our workplace is representative and equitable

Update December 17th, 1:35PM ET: Added statement from Google.