Google.. Image Source: IANS News

San Francisco, March 8 : Several Google employees have said that the company allegedly suggested them to go for mental health counselling or apply leave when they complained about racism or sexual harassment at workplace, the media reported.

According to NBC News, Google's human resources (HR) department encouraged them to take mental health leave, even when their complaints were unrelated to such concerns.

"They consulted human resources after colleagues made comments about their skin colour or Black hairstyles or asked if they were sexually interested in their teammates. They also contacted human resources to report retaliation after protesting sexual harassment issues and to advocate for raises for Black people to match white employees' pay," the report said on Sunday.

Each time, "human resource personnel recommended the employees seek therapy or take medical leave to address their mental health - despite their mental well-being having nothing to do with their complaints," the report mentioned.

Benjamin Cruz, a former instructional designer in Google's Cloud division, said that after he made the complaint, "my work started getting pushed out from under me, but my team acted like everything was fine. I wanted to find help. When the medical leave was recommended to me, it was like an automatic process." Google did not comment on Cruz's allegations, the report said.

Last month, two Google engineers, including one of Indian-origin, quit Google over abrupt firing of Timnit Gebru who was the technical co-lead of Google's Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team.

While engineering director David Baker said that Gebru's dismissal "extinguished" his will to work at the company, software engineer Vinesh Kannan announced that he was quitting because Gebru and April Christina Curley, a diversity recruiter, were "wronged,".

Gebru said in December that she was fired over an email where she expressed her doubts about Google's commitment inclusion and diversity.

Later that month, Curley made her firing that took place in September 2020 public.

"THEY DO NOT WANT BLACK TALENT," she said.

Both Gebru and Curley were known for their advocacy for increased diversity in the tech industry.

They were both given the same advice: undergo mental health counselling or take medical leave, the report said.

"Going on leave is so normalised. I can think of 10 people that I know of in the last year that have gone on mental health leave because of the way they were treated," a former Google employee was quoted as saying in the report.

Google said that the company is 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. All concerns reported to us are investigated rigorously, and we take firm action against employees who violate our policies," a Google spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Even Google employees "who are white say they faced similar treatment from human resources when they spoke up about the company's racial and gender discrimination issues," the report alleged.

From 2014 to 2019, Google increased its Black hires across its workforce by 2 per cent, according to its 2020 report.

In January, a group of Google employees formed the Alphabet Workers Union with an aim to tackle issues like pay disparity, retaliation and controversial government contracts.

The organisation now has more than 800 members.

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