Categories: RegulationWorkspace

Google ‘Recommended Therapy’ Following Racism Complaints

Some of Google’s US staff say the company’s human resources department would frequently recommend medical leave and mental health counselling in response to complaints about racism or sexism in the workplace, NBC News reported.

One current employee cited in the report said such recommendations appeared to be a “normalised” response.

NBC’s investigation follows a controversy over the departure from the company of two leading AI ethics researchers who had campaigned on diversity issues and who say they were fired.

Google said it “rigorously” investigates staff complaints and takes “firm action” against employees who violate its policies.

AI researcher Timnit Gebru

Mental health

But it acknowledged it also provides “resources for employees who may want additional care and support” to those who report or who are the subject misconduct.

“We think this is the right thing for an employer to do to support people making complaints, but to be clear, these resources are in no way a substitute to Google investigating and addressing the matter they have reported,” the company stated.

Former employee Benjamin Cruz told NBC that medical leave was recommended following a complaint about a remark regarding skin colour in 2019.

They said the recommendation appeared to be an “automatic process”.

Another former staff member said 10 people they knew had gone on mental health leave in the past year “because of the way they were treated”.

The report claims to be based on nearly a dozen first-hand employee descriptions fo such experiences.

Diversity

AI researcher Dr Timnit Gebru, whose departure from Google last year led to widespread criticism of Google, said she had been encouraged to utilise “therapy resources”.

Fellow AI researcher Dr Margaret Mitchell, who publicly supported Gebru before being fired by Google in February, said on Twitter said the report also reflected what had happened to her.

She wrote that Google’s actions show a pattern of “confusing the effects… with the cause”.

Separately, Reuters reported last week that Facebook is also the subject of an investigation by the US’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over potentially discriminatory company policies, following complaints by four rejected job applicants.

The agency has not yet filed any charges against Facebook.

The company said it works to provide all staff with a “respectful and safe working environment”.

“We take any allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate every case,” Facebook told the news agency.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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