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A former Google engineer who worked at the company for seven years has filed a lawsuit against the search giant over its “bro-culture.” Loretta Lee, who was terminated in February 2016, is suing for sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and retaliation.
In Lee’s lawsuit, she describes how she was routinely and repeatedly sexually harassed during her time at the company. In one example, a male colleague asked her for a “horizontal hug” in a message. Another time, she returned to her seat to find a male coworker she’d never spoken with before underneath her desk. The coworker refused to say what he was doing there, and she worried he may have been trying to install a camera or similar surveillance device.
While she initially refrained from reporting the incident to HR, after some urging, she finally did—but Google reportedly did not investigate the situation further. Lee had feared that, in reporting this to HR, she’d be “labeled an informer” by her colleagues. Following her formal complaint, fellow software engineers refused to approve her code or provide “appropriate feedback” on her work.
“Google’s bro-culture contributed to Plaintiff’s suffering frequent sexual harassment and gender discrimination, for which Google failed to take corrective action,” her lawsuit states.
This latest lawsuit follows a separate sexual harassment suit filed by three former Google employees in September. In this case, the plaintiffs claim that the company “channeled and segregated” women into lower job levels, paying them lower salaries and making it difficult to advance in the workplace.
On the flip side of the coin, Google has also been targeted with lawsuits for its diversity endeavors. Former engineer James Damore, who penned the now infamous “Google memo,” filed a lawsuit against the company for unjustly discriminating against conservative white men. In mid-February, the National Labor Relations Board rejected Damore’s suit. The board determined that sections of parts of Damore’s rant were “so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive” that it didn’t qualify as speech protected by law.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.