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Google The Courts

Google's 'Bro Culture' Led To Harassment, Argues New Lawsuit By Software Engineer (siliconvalley.com) 290

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News: As a young, female software engineer at male-dominated Google, Loretta Lee was slapped, groped and even had a co-worker pop up from beneath her desk one night and tell her she'd never know what he'd been doing under there, according to a lawsuit filed against the Mountain View tech giant... Lee's lawsuit -- filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court -- alleges the company failed to to protect her, saying, "Google's bro-culture contributed to (Lee's) suffering frequent sexual harassment and gender discrimination, for which Google failed to take corrective action."

She was fired in February 2016 for poor performance, according to the suit... Lee started at the company in 2008 in Los Angeles and later switched to the firm's Mountain View campus, according to the suit, which asserts that she "was considered a talented and rising star" who received consistently "excellent" performance reviews. Lee claims that the "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment she experienced included daily abuse and egregious incidents. In addition to making lewd comments to her and ogling her "constantly," Lee's male co-workers spiked her drinks with whiskey and laughed about it; and shot Nerf balls and darts at her "almost every day," the suit alleges. One male colleague sent her a text message asking if she wanted a "horizontal hug," while another showed up at her apartment with a bottle of liquor, offering to help her fix a problem with one of her devices, refusing to leave when she asked him to, she alleges. At a holiday party, Lee "was slapped in the face by an intoxicated male co-worker for no apparent reason," according to the suit.

Lee resisted reporting an employee who had grabbed her lanyard and grazed her breasts -- and was then written up for being uncooperative. But after filing a report, "HR found her claims 'unsubstantiated,' according to the suit. 'This emboldened her colleagues to continue their inappropriate behavior,' the suit says.

"Her fear of being ostracized was realized, she claims, with co-workers refusing to approve her code in spite of her diligent work on it. Not getting her code approved led to her being 'labeled as a poor performer,' the suit says."
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Google's 'Bro Culture' Led To Harassment, Argues New Lawsuit By Software Engineer

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  • Words vs. actions (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It strikes me as odd that James Damore was immediately fired for his writing, but other Google employees apparently engage in direct, physical harassment without consequence.

    Perhaps the PC police fear the spread of wrongthink more than the actual crimes themselves.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      Damore was public about his views. The other employees keep it quite. There are rumors at my work place that go on, X person is having an affair, Mr. Y will tend to be misogynistic. However if I haven't seen it or have a concrete example I am not able to go to HR and let them know. At best I just warn other people about the people. For most of these people if there is a smoking gun, then HR can do something about it. However systemic problem are harder to just fire people.

      • Re:Words vs. actions (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Saturday February 24, 2018 @07:24PM (#56182773) Homepage

        He wasn't public about his views until Google someone in the clique decided to dump his memo online and attack him. Then all bets were off, go read his court filing. They(google) directly asked for things from employees, he directly responded. Got no response. Asked again, got no response. Then had multiple altercations with people who attacked him on the memo.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pots ( 5047349 )
          Maybe instead of reading his court filing, in which he attempts to depict himself in the best possible light, you should read the National Labor Relations Board evaluation [nlrb.gov] of his case. They point out that not only did he, himself, share the memo on two separate company forums, but in their opinion he "reasonably should have known that the memorandum would likely be disseminated further, even beyond the workplace."

          They also make much ado about the fact that he wasn't fired for offering suggestions about h
          • Because we all know there are NO biological differences between the sexes. Why should we even have two sexes if they are sooo identical? I say we just bring it down to one sex. We can all be "it" and there will be no problems with bathrooms or who marries who. And everyone can have babies if they want to or whatever! Such a great plan!
  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Saturday February 24, 2018 @05:29PM (#56182379)
    I'm almost hesitant to describe this because it makes me wonder if former co-workers of mine read this site and will know what environment I'm talking about. Frequently, one co-worker who was eventually promoted to be a Director would often loudly ask questions like "Does it make you gay if _______?" and what went in the blank was always quite inappropriate and sometimes quite disturbing. There were also frequently mentions of sex acts like like Dirty Sanchez and Hot Carl's. If you don't know what those are, DO NOT look them up unless you want to be grossed out. Management knew this type of behavior was common as did HR and yet they looked the other way. In fact it was a running joke "Don't tell HR". The best part of it all is that you were compelled to join in this sophomoric behavior lest you be ostracized from the group, overlooked for promotions, etc. Absolutely filthy. Sometimes I wonder if Idiocracy is truly upon us.
    • I wish I had mod-points. I suspect there are hundreds of workplaces like that, because I doubt we worked at the same place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2018 @05:34PM (#56182397)

    I'm not a woman, and I wasn't sexually harassed, but I worked at a large biotech company in the SF Bay Area where for several years I had great reviews, I became the department's primary point of contact for one of the two segments of that business unit, I was given all of the projects that were large/complex/time sensitive because I always got them done... Then my manager's boss forced one of her personal friends on the department, a master manipulator, and true to form, it wasn't more than a couple of months before the complaints started rolling in as she set her sights on my job. Over the course of 6 months, I complain to my manager multiple times, alleging harassment on the part of my coworker, and his response is to retaliate against me. I was forced to sign a written warning, where he verbally told me he had made up a complaint from another employee in a different department. I go to the HR department, and they tell me not to worry about it and to just let it go. So I take it to the company's Ethics Office (sort of like an HR department that only investigates possible wrongdoing within the company) and despite being the one who brought the issue to their attention, I'm treated like the asshole and then fired two days later, in part because my complaint was considered "unsubstantiated."

    I feel for this woman, and her mistake, like mine, was in going to the HR department instead of straight to California's DFEH. You file a complaint with them alleging some of these things, and make sure the head of HR, your manager, your manager's manager, and maybe even your manager's manager's manager, all know that you have filed this complaint, odds are they will be tripping over one another trying to resolve the problems quickly because they don't want a government agency sniffing around and finding any number of other illegal activities taking place that they turn a blind eye to.

    Based on all the stories coming out recently about Google, it sounds like the company has definitely become a victim of its own success. Any time a company gets sufficiently large, these kinds of things happen. Employees aren't seen as human beings, just ID numbers in a database table, and any one of them is expendable if they start getting full of themselves, thinking silly things like they deserve to be treated like a human being and in accordance with state and federal law.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Basically this one team leader decided he didn't like me and wanted me off the team so he set me up for failure by tasking me with finding a memory leak in code the source of which I wasn't given access to, and even though the previous team leader had given me glowing reviews I was eventually let go because I couldn't find the leak anywhere outside of the code I suspected.

      HR was worse than useless.

      This sounds like a ridiculous bullshit story but I assure you it is true. I only had that experience once in m

      • "I was eventually let go because I couldn't find the leak anywhere outside of the code I suspected." You should have looked inside the place you suspected. I suspect my socks are in the drawer, I'm not going to look in my closet. Failure to communicate?
    • One of the most important things I have ever been told was the HR is for protecting the *company* from the employees. It is not for helping employees.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2018 @05:41PM (#56182431)

    I got into programming as a kid in the 80s, university in the 90s and programming as a day job ever since. I absolutely love reading these insane words they come up with. "Bro culture", "brogrammers" and the like. It is the most insane goddamn thing in the world. But it's only that way to me and people I know, when I step out side my circle and profession I meet people who actually believe this tripe.

    Remember the movie Revenge of the Nerds, it's like if they remade that now in 2018 and reversed the jock/nerd stereotype characters and the nerds are now the out-of-control womanising bully asswipes, and people buy it.

    • Re:Bro Culture lol (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Saturday February 24, 2018 @06:18PM (#56182557) Journal

      At large successful companies, there is a major sea change after the company becomes successful. People like you are the foundation that builds the companies success, but after the bells start ringing and the company becomes rich and successful, a different sort of people climb aboard.

      • after the bells start ringing and the company becomes rich and successful, a different sort of people climb aboard

        When a company grows enough, every sort of person climbs aboard. You can't hire tens of thousands of people without getting all sorts. You can weed out some of the obvious problems in the hiring process (e.g. the AC who replied to you would probably "out" himself pretty quickly), but some will get through.

    • Um, did you even watch "revenge of the nerds"? They went on a panty raid and set up a video remote system so they could spy on sorority sisters in their bedrooms. Then there's the part where the nerd had sex with the pretty girl and she asked if all nerds were as good (at sex) and he says something about how jocks spend so much time thinking about sports and all nerds think about is sex.
    • Remember the movie Revenge of the Nerds, it's like if they remade that now in 2018 and reversed the jock/nerd stereotype characters and the nerds are now the out-of-control womanising bully asswipes, and people buy it.

      We (nerds) are people too, thankyou ver much.

      That means if you give nerds power, some fraction will turn into out-of-control womanising bully asswipes.

      Being into computers doesn't make you a good person (or a bad person) in some ethical sense. A random member nerd is just as likely to abuse po

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday February 24, 2018 @06:01PM (#56182511)

    And on the face of it, based on what I've seen from particular (and blessedly former) coworkers, I believe this woman. But, with this lawsuit, I have some problems because of this paragraph:

    "Lee’s superior and the firm’s human resources department learned of that incident and repeatedly tried persuading her to officially report the alleged groper, but she resisted out of fear of being ostracized as an “informer,” she claims. After she was written up for being uncooperative, she relented and reported the man, but HR found her claims “unsubstantiated,” according to the suit."

    So the impression I get is that she wasn't reporting any of these incidents.

    I do understand why someone might be uncomfortable reporting these problems... but, if you're not at least documenting them at the time they occur or - better - filing complaints as they happen... then you should be SOL.

    • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Saturday February 24, 2018 @06:38PM (#56182603)

      Why should anyone be SOL for not immediately reporting a problem? Is there some kind of statute of limitations that absolves the perpetrators from liability simply because those who are targeted do not complain right away?

      That kind of thinking is exactly why workplace harassment is so pervasive, because what happens is that a culture is created in which prompt reporting is discouraged. You claim to understand why someone "might be uncomfortable reporting these problems." But it's clear that you don't because you immediately follow that with this absurd notion that the victim is not entitled to redress precisely because of those reasons you claim to understand.

      These reasons for not immediately reporting are well-known and researched, for example, in cases of rape. While vastly different in severity--by no means do I claim that rape is the same as workplace harassment--the underlying psychology of not wanting to report such offenses is similar. The emotional trauma of being targeted and victimized, compounded by the additional trauma of not being believed, having to immediately retell your story, being expected to remain level headed about your experience, then being isolated from your peers, the focus of gossip and suspicion and talk about whether you did anything that caused you to "have it coming" or "deserve it"--these are just the beginning of a litany of reasons why people do not always do what you seem to blithely suggest one must do in order to be deserving of justice.

      • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Saturday February 24, 2018 @06:50PM (#56182639)

        And if you think that I'm just some feminist SJW snowflake, the same thing applies to bullying, something I imagine a lot of Slashdot readers have had experience with. How many of you remember being bullied in school? Having someone more popular, more athletic, more socially adept, treat you like shit just because they thought it would be "fun?" That your day-to-day existence was turned into a living hell for no other reason than the amusement of others?

        What was the first thing you thought of doing? You thought you could go to your teachers or parents or principal and tell them everything and that would somehow suddenly make all your problems disappear? How laughably naive does that idea sound to you?

        So, why would you think that just because this is about men harassing women that such behavior is any different? That you might think that she did something to deserve this kind of treatment, or that now you expect the victim to write everything down and tell HR right away, when we all know that HR is not there to protect the rights of the employees, but of the company? Now how realistic does that sound, to say that you have to tell HR right away when some asshole spikes your drink with whiskey at work?

        • It sounds like you don't know people who are selective in details and change the narrative. I can mostly only think of women (black sheep sister comes to mind) in these examples (and two nephews), but many, many times that I've been present for something and later hear the other person's record of events, it's rarely accurate. There's a tone and attitude change, sometimes with added facial and head movements to emphasize something that didn't happen in the first place. They make someone appear bitchy when
          • Funny, what you think about women, I think about most alt righters. Ok, and if I won't be a troll for a second, I think it about anyone has a strong political opinion that he already decided on no matter what.

        • I got harrassed and bullied from small child age on.
          I complained to my mother (nearly daily) and when I was about 3 we had a parents day in the kindergarden.
          I showed her one of the worst of them and assumed she would talk to his parents. What she did was putting us both on a small wall, and giving us a stick (a dry branch from nearby trees) and told us "to fight it out"!

          Obviously I never really bothered her with my problems anymore from that time on ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by f00zbll ( 526151 )
      I have plenty of female friends who have experience the same thing and they didn't report it because they knew the blame would be turned on them instead. In the 18 yrs of working in IT, I have seen men act like total freakin jackasses around women. I've also seen guys act like total gentlemen around female co-workers. One co-worker had to be lectured by the HR department for harassing women at work. His excuse was "I was just talking to them at their cube". A few of us called him out and told him "you're be
      • I understand he was a creepy guy in your office.

        However, what is wrong with this: He also took yoga classes to hit on women.

        If you want to meet hot woman you obviously need to go where hot women hang around. And if you want to date one you obviously need to go where you most likely find a woman that is not in a relationship.

        A few of us made fun of him, but he kept on doing it.
        I hope you did not make fun about him, because he took yoga classes, because that would imply you are an idiot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2018 @06:03PM (#56182515)

    It's funny how the comments here mostly seek to minimize and dismiss her complaints (or outright accuse her of lying) while the comments on the James Damore story were mostly supportive.

    I wonder what the difference could possibly be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jarwulf ( 530523 )
      If you don't believe these allegations than you are basically a right wing rape apologist according to you. If you DO believe these allegations than Google. Probably one of if not the most prominent and outspoken champions of social justice not just in words but through spending millions in pushing this philosophy in politics and the legal system is a complete hypocrite and their methods not only do not work they make their work environment the antithesis of what they seek. Gotta be one of these dude/perso
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Saturday February 24, 2018 @07:31PM (#56182801) Homepage

      I wonder what the difference could possibly be.

      ~25 years of sexual harassment training, that point becoming narrower and narrower as a definition every year up to this point where the #metoo moment declared that talking is now harassment?

      Or would you like to roll with the point that everyone who's ever worked in a workplace knows that gaggle of women who go out of their way to make everyone else's life a living hell, and know that if it had been a man doing the same thing - under those same rules he would have lost his job 3 years ago.

      Or can we roll with the claims of "it happened years ago, my word is my truth, but I have no actual evidence." But you really gotta believe me, because female, and listen and believe. And if you don't, you're a dirty white male, a misogynist, and probably commit sexual assault too! Where a male who made the same claim would be laughed at and rightly so.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2018 @08:05PM (#56182903)

      Damore did not accuse specific people of criminal activity. Whereas she did.

      Damore was fired *after* his views went public, and specifically because of that event. She was fired *before* she made these accusations, and for reasons that she is challenging by making these accusations (that is to say, fired for poor performance, she says her performance only seemed poor due to the harassment).

      So, she might be telling the truth. But, she also has an incentive to lie. So we don't know.

      Damore simply put all his cards on the table, and got fired for it, and that was that.

      These differences are far more relevant than the difference that you are alluding to.

    • Most of the top-rated comments I just read actually seem to be supportive of her claims. As with the Damore support: Good.

    • Because one of them will be treated seriously, sympathetically, and almost certainly win some sort of compensation? (Hint: not Damore)

    • That's exactly the opposite response I've been seeing. Maybe we're reading 2 different slashdots?

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Sunday February 25, 2018 @03:44AM (#56183941)

    Assuming the article accurately represents how she was treated, this is completely absolutely off the curve not OK. I don't know how common this is, but there are enough reports from enough different people at different companies that I believe its pretty widespread.

    I've found that workplaces that have a larger percentage of older workers tend to do a lot better. Maybe the older workers who act like adults at work serve as role models for younger workers. In my (second hand) experience even the defense industry is far better than high-tech.

    I would not tolerate anything like this sort of behavior in my group. I'm paying people (generally quite well) to do really interesting, really difficult work. I need all of them, and the last thing I want is some immature idiot making it more difficult for someone else in my group to do their work.

  • If only half of these allegations are true, this is a problem. And while I think the lady may be a bit sissy about a few things and perhaps herself socially inept/inexperienced at dealing with more than one man at a time, I can't entirely dismiss these allegations as improbable. Especially with prudish/bigot societies like the US or - in parts - Germany.

    Curiously I don't think this can be all a Google/Company problem, but it must be a society problem. And from my own experience as a heterosexual man and a s

    • To be honest, this seems to be a purely american problem.

      In Europe we are happy if in a group of 10 men is a woman (talking about software development) ... and if a coworker would harrass a woman in front of our eyes we would invite him to a tour through the basement where the server rooms are ... mumble some things about dungeons and chains ... and he probably would stumble somewhere and we would bring him to the health office with a black eye making sure he is treated.

      Sorry, but many things people posted

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