Lawsuit: YouTube stopped hiring white and Asian males to improve corporate diversity

According to claims made in a lawsuit filed by a former recruiter for Google’s YouTube video site, the company instructed staff to stop hiring white and Asian men last year in an attempt to improve corporate diversity. The Wall Street Journal reports that the freeze on hiring whites and Asians was confirmed by others familiar with the company’s hiring practices:

The lawsuit, filed by Arne Wilberg, a white male who worked at Google for nine years, including four years as a recruiter at YouTube, alleges the division of Alphabet Inc.’s Google set quotas for hiring minorities. Last spring, YouTube recruiters were allegedly instructed to cancel interviews with applicants who weren’t female, black or Hispanic, and to “purge entirely” the applications of people who didn’t fit those categories, the lawsuit claims.

A Google spokeswoman said the company will vigorously defend itself in the lawsuit. “We have a clear policy to hire candidates based on their merit, not their identity,” she said in a statement. “At the same time, we unapologetically try to find a diverse pool of qualified candidates for open roles, as this helps us hire the best people, improve our culture, and build better products.”

People familiar with YouTube’s and Google’s hiring practices in interviews corroborated some of the lawsuit’s allegations, including the hiring freeze of white and Asian technical employees, and YouTube’s use of quotas…

The lawsuit filed by Mr. Wilberg and people familiar with the hiring practices allege that since at least 2016, YouTube recruiters had hiring quotas or targets for “diversity candidates,” including black, Hispanic and female candidates. For example, in the first quarter of 2016, recruiters were expected to hire five new employees each, all of them from underrepresented groups, the lawsuit alleges.

Wilberg’s lawsuit alleges that Google investigated hiring practices at YouTube and, sometime in mid-2017 told staff to stop tracking the hiring of minorities. Wilberg says he complained about the practices and was ultimately fired in November.

All of this might come as a shock to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the firing of Google engineer James Damore last year. After writing a memo critical of Google’s hiring practices, Damore was fired and accused of misogyny for suggesting biological differences between men and women might explain, in part, why Google engineers are overwhelmingly male.

In an interview with Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, Damore said, “There’s a lot of ways in which they pressure people to ‘increase the diversity of their team.’ And you know there’s no way to do that besides actually choosing someone based on their race or gender.” Damore has also filed a lawsuit against Google claiming the company discriminates against conservatives and white males. The lawsuit described some of what Damore experienced in more detail:

The TGIF meeting on March 30, 2017 was entitled “Women’s History Month,” and Google brought in two presenters for this get-together: Ruth Porat (“Porat”), the Chief Financial
Officer of Google, and Eileen Naughton (“Naughton”), the Human Resources Director of Google.

During the March 30, 2017 TGIF meeting, either Porat or Naughton pointed out and shamed individual departments at Google in which women comprised less than 50% of the workforce. Alternatively, they applauded and praised departments, such as the sales department, where women comprised more than 50% of the workforce.

During the event, Porat and Naughton also discussed that when looking at groups of people for promotions or for leadership opportunities on new projects, Google would be taking into
account gender and ethnic demographics. They then mentioned that Google’s racial and gender preferences in hiring were not up for debate, because this was morally and economically the best thing to do for Google.

Google denies using any quotas in hiring (which would be illegal) and I have no doubt they have an army of lawyers who will “vigorously defend” that stance in court. Still, it’s interesting that people working for different segments of Google seem to be reporting the same kind of intentional discrimination aimed at creating racial and gender equity.

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