A former Google employee, who left the company in 2015, has shared their experience working for the search-engine giant. The accusations are damming even if the incidents did occur almost seven years ago.
In a 2,000 word statement on Reddit entitled “Working at Google made me suicidal”, Donald King, a 41-year-old former software engineer, detailed his experience.
King begins by outlining that he was happy with his financial benefits but later rose serious accusations with the site reliability engineering (SRE) team.
He recalled an in-office party in 2008: “All the activity was focused around drinking heavily all day long, in conference rooms that were set up as makeshift bars.”
“I know of at least one person who got fired for getting so drunk he threw a conference room chair through a wall, while others puked in the work bathrooms.”
At the time, King confesses he wasn’t sure whether this was a normal culture for a firm that is the size of Google and wanted to fit in. But King noted: “The drinking culture was out of control.”
Unfortunately, a drinking culture wasn’t the only issue that King saw at Google.
King alleges that employees at Google demonstrated a “deep discomfort” around LGBTQ+ people. Additionally, during these heavy drinking experiences one colleague “started chasing people around to forcibly kiss them” and went on to kiss him without consent.
On another occasion, a colleague approached him at a bar on a work trip and whispered in his ear while putting “his erect penis against my hand through the fabric of his jeans.”
Reporting these allegations and other claims
Despite King alleging a number of colleagues experiencing similar issues, he told Insider that reporting the problems to Google’s HR department “didn’t really feel like an option.” He elaborated that “many of the things I experienced were based on gut feelings, or something that actually happened to me, but nobody saw it.”
Eventually, after seeing his personal wellbeing spiral, King left Google to join Fitbit in 2015. However, he parted ways with Fitbit after hearing Google had acquired the company, saying: “I knew I couldn’t work for Google again.” King has now found work at entertainment startup Fandom.
Google has yet to respond to UNLEASH’s request for comment on King’s allegations. However, since King left the company has pledged to improve its handling of sexual-harassment allegations, and it has ended a policy of forced arbitration for those making complaints.
Other employees of Google have now supported King’s story, and the issues Google has had internally have had a light cast on them through personal statements of former employees and protests. Notably, thousands of employees took a stand against how Google handled of sexual-misconduct allegations in 2018.
On the back of these protests, CEO Sundar Pichai commented that Google “didn’t always get it right.”
I can personally corroborate many of the details in this story, in particular around the drinking culture in Google SRE in 2008, the Blogger porn ban, and how HR mishandled reports of transphobia and homophobia. https://t.co/eDMJ2TdHVX
— Liz Fong-Jones (方禮真) (@lizthegrey) January 11, 2022
These incidents will remind every business of the importance of having a positive working culture as well as a robust HR department.
King reflected on why he made his post: “Everyone on this forum [r/antiwork] was under the impression that working in tech is all peaches and cream, and I just wanted to make sure they knew: just because you’re being paid a lot, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing well.”
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