According to U.S-based employees of Google, the HR team would allegedly suggest staff take mental health leave when they issued complaints reporting sexist or racist behaviour in the workplace. 

Various former and current employees of Google have stated that HR would encourage employees to take medical leave and undergo mental health counselling when they issued complaints of misconduct in the workplace.

This would occur even when the complaints about workplace behaviour were not linked to mental health, employees have said.

Benjamin Cruz, a former employee, said that they had complained to HR about a comment made by a colleague which expressed “surprise” at Cruz “being darker than expected”.

However, Cruz stated that, as a result of filing that complaint, the “work was pushed out” from under them. Cruz further went onto state that once medical leave was recommended, it “was like an automatic process”, leading them to get rejected from every subsequent role they applied for at the firm.

These allegations come after several high-profile cases of the company terminating employees who were closely linked to diversity and inclusion initiatives.

At the end of last year, Google allegedly fired Timnit Gebru, co-lead of its ethical AI research team. Ms. Gebru co-authored a research paper which outlined how language-generating artificial intelligence could lead to unknown dangerous biases.

The AI researcher accused Google of reviewing her work differently due to her racial identity, after refusing to retract her paper as requested. This ultimately led to the company firing her although Google disputes this, stating that Ms. Gebru offered her resignation which they then accepted.

This sentiment was also echoed by April Christina Curley, who worked as a diversity recruiter for the company, before being fired. Ms. Curley stated that her willingness to call out recruitment practises such as “screening out” CVs of students with ‘unfamiliar’ school or university names led to her receiving “active abuse and retaliation” from several managers.

Both women stated that they were encouraged to take mental health leave or utilise “therapy resources” in response to the issues they raised.

However, a spokesperson for Google defended the company:

We have a well-defined process for how employees can raise concerns and we work to be extremely transparent about how we handle complaints.

All concerns reported to us are investigated rigorously, and we take firm action against employees who violate our policies.