Tech giant Google has been accused of fostering a “bro culture” that saw female employees suffer sexual harassment on a daily basis in a new lawsuit by a filed by a former software engineer.
Loretta Lee, who spent seven years at Google before she as fired in 2016, accused the Californian company of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and wrongful termination in a suit earlier this month.
It comes just six months after Google’s last major sexism scandal, which was sparked by the leak of a 10-page memo spread within the company, rallying against its diversity policies. Written by a male staffer, it blamed “biological causes” and not discrimination as the reason for the disproportionate amount of men in charge.
Since its release, around 60 employees are believed to be considering class action against the company.
Lee’s complaint, first published by tech news site Gizmodo, piles further scrutiny on the company’s commitment to gender equality, suggesting that it ignored her treatment between 2008 and 2016. She lists a handful of incidents including “lewd comments, pranks and even physical violence.”
Lee claims that male colleagues spiked her drinks with alcohol, shot her with Nerf balls, sending her sexually suggestive texts—such as a request for a “horizontal hug”—and even on one occasion slapping her in the face at a party. In one incident, Lee claimed that she found a male colleague she had never met crawling underneath her desk. She “believed he may have installed some type of camera or similar device” there.
Lee said she was reluctant to report the harrassment at the time for fear of antagonizing her team. When a video of the desk-crawling incident emerged she was pressured by Google to file an official complaint, she claims. She claims Google failed to investigate the incident and she was ostracized by her male colleagues. In 2016, she was dismissed for poor performance.
Google has defended its efforts to combat workplace harassment. “We have strong policies against harassment in the workplace and review every complaint we receive,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We take action when we find violations—including termination of employment," it said.