Former employees claim Google told them to take mental health leave when they experienced sexism and racism

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Google reportedly advised employees complaining about racism and sexism within the company to seek mental health care or go on medical leave. 

The claims mark the latest turn in a tumultuous few months for the company, which have been punctuated by heated internal disputes, fueled in part by the dismissal of two of its lead ethical AI experts, and – in a rare move for Silicon Valley – hundreds of employees unionizing.

In a bombshell report, NBC spoke to Benjamin Cruz, who previously worked at Google’s Cloud division as a designer and goes by the pronouns they/them. Cruz told the network that when they reported an incident that they alleged was racist — in which a colleague told them their “skin was much darker” than expected — Google suggested Cruz go on leave and move to a new role upon their return. 

“After I made that complaint, my work started getting pushed out from under me, but my team acted like everything was fine,” Cruz told NBC. “I wanted to find help.” Cruz claims they were subsequently rejected from every role they applied for, and felt forced to quit.

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One former employee, who spoke to the network on the condition of anonymity, agreed with Cruz, and suggested that going on mental health leave after complaining about conditions is “normalized” within Google. 

Subsequent to the report, a number of former Google employees claimed to have had similar experiences at the company.

William Fitzgerald, a former comms manager at the company, wrote on Twitter: “Google HR did the same to me. Offered me mental health leave when I questioned management.” 

Meanwhile Chelsey Glasson, a former Googler who is suing the company over alleged pregnancy discrimination, said: “This is exactly what Google HR did to me too. I was told to assume positive intent and encouraged to explore counseling or leave.” 

In a statement to NBC, a Google spokesperson said the company was committed to supporting employees who raise concerns about workplace treatment. “We have a well-defined process for how employees can raise concerns and we work to be extremely transparent about how we handle complaints,” they said.

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

Insider approached Google for further comment. 

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