Loretta Lee, once a Google software engineer, is suing her former employer for allegedly doing very little to stop fellow workers from sexually harassing her.
In arguably the most disturbing alleged incident, Lee says that she arrived at her desk one day to find a male co-worker hiding underneath. He, according to the legal complaint, jumped up and shouted “You’ll never know what I was doing,” leading Lee to believe that the colleague (with whom she says she never spoke to before) “installed some type of camera or similar device under her desk.”
Other accusations include the same coworker grazing Lee’s breasts the very next day while grabbing a lanyard resting on her neck. Also, she says male colleagues “spiked her drinks with whiskey and laughed about it,” and constantly shot “nerf balls and darts at her.”
“One colleague sent her a text message asking if she would like a ‘horizontal hug,'” the lawsuit reads. “Another showed up at her apartment with a bottle of liquor,” offered to provide technical assistance, and then refused to leave when asked.
She was also allegedly slapped in the face by an intoxicated male colleague during a holiday party “for no apparent reason.”
After she filed official complaints with human resources and the director of the engineering department, those parties reportedly said they would eventually take action, potentially including a talking to and additional mandatory sexual harassment video training. Still, Lee worried how much this would help, as she may be labeled as an “informer” — an embedded quotation that seem to imply a prevalent use of said term. And her suspicions were correct, the suit alleges, because following expressing a reluctance to formally file a sexual harassment complaint — rather than having superiors talk directly with the co-worker without formal processes, something Lee strongly preferred — human resources wrote her up for “not cooperating.”
“Google was fully aware of what was transpiring and had no real plan to combat it,” the suit alleges, while pointing out that Lee is just of only a few woman in a group of “100-200 Googlers.”
Lee ultimately filed the official report, despite her concerns, and Google ruled that her claims were “unsubstantiated” leading her to believe that this would only embolden colleagues to engage in inappropriate workplace behavior.
Some time passed, and Lee was given low grades for her purportedly “poor performance,” even with years of accolades before the levied accusations. And those assessments ultimately led to her firing.
“Google’s failure to take appropriate remedial action is consistent with its pattern and practice of ignoring sexual harassment in the workplace, making no significant efforts to take corrective action, and punish the victim,” the suit reads.
“We dispute the allegations made in Ms. Lee’s complaint,” a Google spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have strong policies against harassment in the workplace and review every complaint we receive. We take action when we find violations — including termination of employment.”
The lawsuit is just yet another potential example of Silicon Valley’s ostensibly messy internal workplace conduct.
Ten percent of women in the tech industry have reported “unwanted sexual attention” during their tenure, according to the Tech Leavers Study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact.
Fifty-six percent of women who had such experiences said it contributed to their decision to resign.
The problem is not just exclusive to females. Eight percent of men also reported being on the receiving end of unsolicited sexual advances. And 11 percent of people who identify as a member of the “LGBTQ” community said they encountered unwelcome sexual approaches.
So Google certainly isn’t the only tech giant to be hit with accusations of impropriety. Tesla claimed last year that it fired a female engineer who accused the tech company of sexual harassment because she chose to “pursue a miscarriage of justice” by filing a lawsuit.
That is “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Therese Lawless, the legal representation for the plaintiff, said during an interview with TheDCNF.
And there is of course Uber, which recently announced a $5 million donation to seven sexual assault prevention organizations in a five-year interval. (RELATED: Uber Sexual Assault Accuser Signs Movie Deal)
Just how Uber was often described, Lee’s lawsuit refers to Google as having a “bro-culture.”
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