Black, deaf Google worker sues tech giant for discrimination

A black, deaf Google employee – who had been celebrated at corporate events and on social media as a success story for the search giant’s inclusive workplace – has accused the company of discrimination based on her disability and race.

In an explosive lawsuit filed in the US Northern District of California, Jalon Hall — the first and only black, deaf hire at Google, according to Wired — slammed Google for limiting her access to sign-language interpreters months after starting the job.

In the complaint, the worker painted Google’s management environment as hostile and racially charged.

Google’s recruiter promised Jalon Hall – a black, deaf research analyst – sign language interpreters and full accommodation. Three tears later, Hall said the company misled her. Getty Images

She cited Google’s manager at the company’s machine-learning research program calling her an “aggressive black deaf woman” and advising her to “keep her mouth shut and take a sales role”.

Google also excluded her from roundtable discussions and passed her over for promotion due to “inaccurate evaluation” after three years, according to the suit.

“Google is using me to make them look inclusive for the Deaf community and the overall Disability community,” Hall told Wired. “In reality, they need to do better.”

On LinkedIn, Google had praised Hall for “helping expand opportunities for Black Deaf professionals,” while on Instagram, the corporation had featured the research analyst “for making #LifeAtGoogle more inclusive.”

Google recruiters promised Hall, who joined Google as a content moderator in 2020, that sign language interpreters would be provided “and can be fully accommodated,” Wired reported.

Months later, Hall was assigned to enforce YouTube’s child safety regulations, but managers refused interpreters to assist Hall in reviewing the content, according to Wired.

Hall said her manager called her an “aggressive black deaf woman” and suggested she “keeps her mouth shut and takes a sales role”.  Jalon Hall/Instagram

Reportedly, the company worried about exposing contractors to graphic imagery and confidentiality concerns, despite US interpreters adhering to a code of conduct that includes standards for confidentiality.

Deprived of her interpreter, Hall seldom reached the quota of 75 videos that each moderator was required to review within an eight-hour workday. Frequently, she would watch an entire video, sometimes exceeding an hour, before realizing she couldn’t adequately assess its content.

“I felt a sense of humiliation, recognizing that my career wasn’t progressing,” she told Wired.

Hall still holds the position of a level-two employee after three years at Google, while the majority of the company’s workers move to level three within this timeframe, Wired reported.

Last week, Google filed to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the claims were brought too late, but the company didn’t deny the charges, according to Wired.

The worker filed three HR complaints before suing, which yielded little change, but she said has stayed at Google to encourage better working conditions for others.

Last week, Google filed to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the claims were brought too late, but the company didn’t deny the charges, according to Wired. Getty Images

“It would be selfish to quit Google,” she told Wired. “I’m standing in the gap for those often pushed aside.”

Black and disabled employees constitute a small minority at Google, a company with nearly 183,000 workers. 

Black women, comprising approximately 2.4 percent of Google’s US workforce, have shown a disproportionately higher departure rate compared to women of other races, as indicated by company data from last year.

Google’s deaf and hard-of-hearing employee group consists of only 40 members, Wired reported.

Along with personal compensation, Hall demanded Google introduce reinforcement policies – to ensure future hires receive reasonable accommodation and have equal opportunities “just as other non-Black Deaf employees with disability.”

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