Benjamin Cruz, a former instructional designer in Google’s Cloud division, was caught off guard when a colleague told them that their skin was much darker than she expected.
Cruz, who is Mexican American and prefers to be identified by the pronouns they/them, reported the incident to human resources in 2019 where personnel told them they should “assume good intent,” Cruz recalled in an interview. Unsatisfied, Cruz asked human resources to look deeper into the incident, and an HR official said an investigation into the matter had been closed, Cruz said.
So, Cruz sought help from human resources again. The solution? Urge Cruz to take medical leave and tend to their mental health before moving to a new role in the company. Cruz went on medical leave, and hoped to take the company up on its offer for a new position, they said. But Cruz was turned down from every role they applied for, so they were forced to quit.
“After I made that complaint, my work started getting pushed out from under me, but my team acted like everything was fine. I wanted to find help,” Cruz said. “When the medical leave was recommended to me, it was like an automatic process.”
Google declined to comment on Cruz’s allegations.
Cruz’s experience with Google’s internal human resources personnel echoes that of several former and current Google employees, including two prominent Black women, Timnit Gebru and April Curley, who were pushed out of Google at the end of last year. Both women were known for their advocacy for increased diversity in the tech industry, and when their complaints about how the company handled racial and gender discrimination reached human resources, they were both given the same advice: undergo mental health counseling and take medical leave.