Workers have long coveted jobs in the tech industry because companies promise things like good pay, prestige, luxurious perks, and innovative cultures.
But Emi Nietfeld, a Google engineer from 2015 to 2019, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times on Wednesday that she left her tech job because Google’s supposed reputation as a great place to work masked the reality that — just like other companies — it ultimately looks out for itself.
Nietfeld said in the op-ed that one her male managers sexually harassed for more than a year, calling her “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” and “my queen” — and that Google’s reputation made it that much harder to speak up.
“Saying anything about his behavior meant challenging the story we told ourselves about Google being so special,” Nietfeld wrote, adding: “Google was the Garden of Eden; I lived in fear of being cast out.”
Google did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
When she eventually filed a formal HR complaint, Nietfeld wrote: “Google went from being a great workplace to being any other company.”
Google ignored Nietfeld’s concerns about having to sit next to her harasser during and after its three-month-long investigation, even after concluding that he violated the company’s harassment policy, she said, while suggesting that Nietfeld seek counseling, work remotely, or take a leave of absence.
It’s not the first time Google has come under fire over similar cultural and equity issues.
Multiple former Google employees said that the company told them to take mental health leave when they experienced sexism and racism. Oher employees and shareholders have filed lawsuits accusing Google of gender pay bias, retaliation against whistleblowers, and mishandling major sexual harassment incidents involving top executives.
Nietfeld said Google didn’t appear to do much in the way of reprimanding her harasser, and after suffering through weeks of bad sleep and emotional distress at work, she took three months of paid leave. But Nietfeld said she returned only to face retaliation from another manager, get passed over for promotion, have her pay cut, and have Google make a “meager counteroffer” when two competing job offers came up.
“After I quit, I promised myself to never love a job again. Not in the way I loved Google. Not with the devotion businesses wish to inspire when they provide for employees’ most basic needs like food and health care and belonging. No publicly traded company is a family. I fell for the fantasy that it could be,” Nietfeld wrote.