YouTube sued for limiting white, Asian male hires for diversity purposes

Image source Neon Tommy via Flickr

A former YouTube employee is suing parent company Google, for which he worked for a total of nine years, alleging that he was sacked for refusing to adhere to hiring practices that discriminated against white and Asian males. The lawsuit was filed in a California court by Arne Wilberg, who worked at Google and YouTube for about nine years.

It is the latest diversity row to hit Google, coming in the same week as a separate lawsuit claiming that a toxic "bro culture" discriminated against women.

Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano said the company plans to vigorously defend this lawsuit.

Google is certainly facing the heat to diversify its workforce and reform its mostly white-and-Asian male workforce to constitute more women and people of color.

Wilberg alleges that several employees complained to Google about the company's hiring policies, but were either ignored, transferred, or demoted.

Another former Google employee is suing Google for wrongful termination.

To help prove his allegations, Wilberg included a screenshot of a Google tracking system - which was subsequently deleted - that kept track of candidates' gender and race, pointing out that the company had not reached their goals in respect to hiring female, black and Latinx candidates. He also alleged that late past year, management deleted emails and other digital records of diversity requirements.

In April 2017, Google's "technology staffing management team" was told to cancel job interviews for software engineers with five or fewer years of experience who were not female, black or Latino, and to "purge entirely any applications by non-diverse employees from the hiring pipeline", according to the suit. In one case, the suit claims, hiring managers pressured Wilberg to make an applicant over 40 apply for a position he wasn't qualified for so the job seeker would fail to gain employment at Google.

Meir Shemla, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Rotterdam School of Management, who recently co-authored a paper analyzing almost two decades of diversity policies, says the lawsuit is an example of a "deep misunderstanding of how to reap the benefits of diversity", which requires creating a psychologically safe environment where people can share conflicting ideas.

Google has denied the company implemented discriminatory policies toward Caucasian and Asian men.

Google is YouTube's parent company.

Although Google initially fought not to disclose the demographic makeup of its workforce, the company was the first big company in Silicon Valley to release an annual diversity report, which is now common practice among tech firms.

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