VIEW — As a young, female software engineer at male-dominated
Google, Loretta Lee was slapped, groped and even had a co-worker
pop up from beneath her desk one night and tell her she’d never
know what he’d been doing under there, according to a lawsuit
filed against the Mountain View tech giant.
lawsuit comes as Silicon Valley’s tech industry, dominated by
white men, has been roiled by a series of sexual-misconduct
scandals and gender-related upheavals as the MeToo movement
against sexual assault of women has prompted a nationwide cultural
has been the focus of considerable gender-related controversy. It
fired engineer James Damore over his memo claiming a biological
basis for the gender gap in tech. It sacked a transgender man who
then sued the firm, claiming he was ousted for opposing bigotry in
the workplace. And lawsuits by the U.S. Department of Labor and a
former Googler have accused the company of paying women less than
Lee’s lawsuit — filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court —
alleges the company failed to to protect her, saying, “Google’s
bro-culture contributed to (Lee’s) suffering frequent sexual
harassment and gender discrimination, for which Google failed to
take corrective action.”
was fired in February 2016 for poor performance, according to the
said Friday that it has “strong policies against harassment in the
workplace” and reviews every complaint it receives.
take action when we find violations, including termination of
employment,” a company spokesperson said.
started at the company in 2008 in Los Angeles and later switched
to the firm’s Mountain View campus, according to the suit, which
asserts that she “was considered a talented and rising star” who
received consistently “excellent” performance reviews.
claims that the “severe and pervasive” sexual harassment she
experienced included daily abuse and egregious incidents. In
addition to making lewd comments to her and ogling her
“constantly,” Lee’s male co-workers spiked her drinks with whiskey
and laughed about it; and shot Nerf balls and darts at her “almost
every day,” the suit alleges.
male colleague sent her a text message asking if she wanted a
“horizontal hug,” while another showed up at her apartment with a
bottle of liquor, offering to help her fix a problem with one of
her devices, refusing to leave when she asked him to, she alleges.
a holiday party, Lee “was slapped in the face by an intoxicated
male co-worker for no apparent reason,” according to the suit.
January 2016, while working late one night, she was approaching
her work space when she saw a male colleague whom she had never
spoken with “on all fours, underneath her desk,” she claims. When
he saw her, the man “jumped up and shouted, ‘You’ll never know
what I was doing!’ ” according to the suit.
was frightened by his comment and believed he may have installed
some type of camera or similar device under her desk,” the lawsuit
next day, a co-worker grabbed the name badge hanging from a
lanyard around her neck, asking her name and grazing her breasts
with his hand, she claims.
superior and the firm’s human resources department learned of that
incident and repeatedly tried persuading her to officially report
the alleged groper, but she resisted out of fear of being
ostracized as an “informer,” she claims. After she was written up
for being uncooperative, she relented and reported the man, but HR
found her claims “unsubstantiated,” according to the suit.
emboldened her colleagues to continue their inappropriate
behavior,” the suit says.
fear of being ostracized was realized, she claims, with co-workers
refusing to approve her code in spite of her diligent work on it.
Not getting her code approved led to her being “labeled as a ‘poor
performer,’ ” the suit says.
Lee also alleges that Google failed to accommodate her after she
suffered a disabling back injury from a car crash, with the company
telling her she must get treatment and therapy on her own time.
is seeking unspecified damages in excess of $25,000 for
harassment, gender discrimination, failure to prevent sexual
harassment, disability discrimination, wrongful termination and