A Google employee alleges in a lawsuit that the data and internet search company makes misrepresentations to induce African-Americans and other minorities into accepting jobs because Google “wants to appear as if it cares about diversity.”
The lawsuit accuses Google of fraud and unfair competitive practices in relation to the alleged misrepresentation, and retaliation based on allegations that Cassel was stereotyped as an “angry black man” and punished for his complaints about discriminatory treatment. Some of Cassel’s allegations are similar in their characterizations of Google’s workplace diversity practices to another case filed by a former Google recruiter. That case was paused by the court in March 2018 so the dispute could go to arbitration.
A Google spokesperson told Bloomberg Law in a May 8 email that the company is limited on commenting on pending litigation. “We deny these allegations and will defend against them,” Jenn Kaiser said.
Cassel’s allegations regarding the recruiting practices either were stayed or sent to arbitration, but both sides recently “agreed to close the arbitration” process in “light of recent changes to Google’s arbitration policy,” Google and Cassel’s attorneys said in a joint filing April 26 in the Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Clara.
Google announced in February that it would end its mandatory arbitration policies. “In practice that means we are not going back in time and changing our approach for any disputes with former employees or for settled claims,” Kaiser said. “If you are a current employee on March 21, you can litigate past claims too (as long as that claim is not already settled).”
Cassel’s case is pending, and a court has yet to rule on the merits of his allegations about a “bait and switch” practice. Google’s high profile and the increased public attention around diversity practices could put the company’s stance in the case and its defenses to the allegations under great scrutiny. The company has been described as having a “diversity crisis” by its own shareholders, and many other tech businesses face public criticism both for failing to recruit enough women and racial minorities, and for the practices sometimes adopted to improve diversity.
Cassel couldn’t be reached for comment. He remains a Google employee and has been on extended leave.
“Mr. Cassel’s allegations are entirely well-founded,” his attorney Chris Baker of Baker Curtis & Shwartz, P.C. in California, said in a May 8 email. “Google should permit Mr. Cassel to return to work, performing the job he was promised. He could be a great contributor and a valued employee, if Google would only give him the opportunity to work, free from discrimination and retaliation.”
Google didn’t respond to inquiries about the reason for Cassel’s leave. The company is represented in the case by Paul Hastings LLP.
Not ‘Googley’ Enough?
Cassel worked as a senior business relationship manager for
He alleges that he was interviewed and hired by Google in 2016 for a similar position—as partner operations manager—after being urged to apply by a Google manager. According to the complaint, Cassel “discovered that Google had purposefully misrepresented the nature of his job on the ‘gTech team’” during his orientation, and that he actually would be “tasked with providing technical IT support to Google customers.”
Cassel says he complained about the job assignment but was told to find himself another role within the company. He alleges Google had a pilot program called “Chameleon,” in which it would hire people as partner operations managers without knowing what they’d actually do once they arrived for work.
The company didn’t cooperate with his subsequent efforts to find a different position, Cassel says.
He started working out of a Chicago office in October 2016 to help care for a family member, but in February 2017, Google canceled that accommodation. Cassel alleges the requirement to work from Mountain View, Calif., “did not apply to younger white people.”
He was placed on a “performance expectation plan” when he returned to Mountain View. He alleges he was later stereotyped and given retaliatory assignments for sitting at the head of table during meetings and for allegedly “hostile or abrupt” responses to colleagues.
Employees who aren’t black “who act aggressively and unprofessionally at Google are not written up as being ‘angry,’” Cassel says in his complaint. “They are instead celebrated for their ‘Googliness.’”
Cassel was assigned a mentor to “teach him how to be ‘Googley’” sometime in 2017, he alleges in the complaint.
The company can oppose or agree with Cassel’s eventual motion to lift the stay in his case once arbitration closes. Google also could move to have the case paused again until litigation in a separate case closes. That case also was filed by Cassel’s attorneys on behalf of an anonymous former Google employee, and makes challenges to Google’s confidentiality and other agreements that Cassel also alleges in his lawsuit.
Request for Public Injunction
Cassel’s case requests a public injunction that would require Google to stop the alleged conduct and notify all current and former employees, if he proves his allegations.
One of his two claims targeted at the allegedly fraudulent recruiting has been paused at Google’s request because of the other case brought by Cassel’s attorney. That case is pending.
After the arbitration is formally closed, “the Parties will either stipulate to a lift of the current stay or Plaintiff will move to lift the stay” on the claim alleging a ‘bait and switch’ practice, both sides said in the joint stipulation to the court April 26.
The judge will then weigh any arguments Google may make to continue holding the claim against Cassel’s arguments to move forward with litigation.
The case is Cassel v. Google LLC, et al, 17-CV-319202, California Superior Court, San Clara County, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 17CV319202, 11/15/17.