Businesses of every size require their employees to annually go through sexual harassment training hoping to prevent any issues from taking place in their organization and to protect themselves from expensive lawsuits if harassment is reported.
In spite of the potential liability, some organizations’ leadership teams are turning a blind eye to known harassment in their ranks.
In 2020, Google’s parent company Alphabet agreed to more than 80 updates or changes to its policies and procedures around sexual misconduct and harassment as part of an extensive legal settlement.
The overhaul is meant to fill gaps that executives allegedly exploited to engage in sexual misconduct or harassment and to serve as an example for other Silicon Valley tech companies.
The settlement included $310 million devoted to new diversity, equality, and inclusion measures, which comes after a group of shareholders accused the leadership team of mishandling employee complaints of sexual misconduct and discrimination.
Well, it appears that some of Google’s executives did not get the memo to stop the harassment.
A married, 48-year-old New Jersey father of seven is suing Google, claiming he was fired after rejecting the unwanted sexual advances of a senior female director at the company.
Ryan Olohan’s suit alleges that he was not only molested by his coworker but that the company subsequently downplayed his concerns both about the incident and the rejected woman’s alleged retaliation, in part because he is a white male.
— Ryan Olohan (@RyanGOOGtoKlick) September 16, 2020
Olohan worked at the company for 16 years until his termination on Aug. 5, 2022. His new lawsuit notes that a Google Employee Investigations Team chalked up his exit to a failure to be “inclusive” and to showing “favoritism towards high performers.”
According to the lawsuit, Olohan’s favoritism did not extend to Tiffany Miller, director of Google’s programmatic media and agency partnerships.
Miller and Google as named as the defendants. Miller is accused of approaching Olohan in an inebriated state, then molesting him at a New York City restaurant in December 2019 during an event hosted by Adam Stewart, vice president of consumer, government, and entertainment at Google.
“At the dinner, Miller approached Olohan and rubbed his stomach,” says the court documents. “While rubbing his stomach, Miller told Olohan that he had ‘such a nice body.'”
Olohan claims he was made “extremely uncomfortable” by Miller’s unsolicited and undesired touching and advances — “immediately removed himself from the situation.”
While Olohan did not immediately raise alarm over the incident, given that his colleague was supposedly “drinking alcohol excessively” at the party, he later engaged coworkers who explained that Miller’s behavior was “Tiffany just being Tiffany.”
Olohan’s suit indicates he ultimately reported the incident to a Google human resources representative, who allegedly admitted: “that if the complaint was ‘in reverse’ — a female accusing a White male of harassment — that the complaint would certainly be escalated.”
However, this admission accompanied a broader concession that Miller “drinks too much alcohol.”
Under Google’s harassment policy, “Sexual harassment can happen regardless of the gender, gender identity, orientation or gender expression of the individuals involved, and can, for example, occur between same-sex individuals as well as between opposite-sex individuals.”
“On information and belief, Google conducted no investigation regarding Olohan’s complaint and Miller faced no formal repercussions,” the court documents state.
Olohan claims he soon became the target for retaliation, with Miller “criticizing him to other coworkers and complaining to Human Resources on at least two occasions about alleged ‘microaggressions.'”
Human resource managers were reportedly present during the supposed offenses. Jacky Schiestel, one of the HR members, allegedly agreed that Miller was “being petty” and that no “microaggression” had occurred.
The lawsuit details a number of other instances when Miller allegedly denigrated or undermined Olohan in front of coworkers, in one case going so far as to require an apology. Google reportedly took no action.
Miller’s alleged animosity toward Olohan, as described in the court papers, supposedly informed an identitarian push to oust “white guys” on the plaintiff’s management team, culminating, ultimately, in his termination.
Other employees suggested that Google tends to conceal rather than deal head-on with sexual harassment concerns, particularly when they concern high-ranking executives.
Thousands of Google employees walked out in the fall of 2018 in protest of the company’s response to sexual harassment, reported Reuters.
In response to the protest, Google announced new policies around sexual harassment.
Sundar Pichai, the company’s CEO, said at the time, “We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes. Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We’ll give better support and care to the people who raise them.”
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