April Curley, a former Google recruiter who helped establish and foster a pipeline of young Black technical talent during her six years at the company, is suing Google for allegedly systematically underpaying and under-promoting its Black Googlers.
Curley was fired from her Google post in September 2020 after being placed on a performance improvement plan. Her suit claims that she was only nominated once for pay or level increases during her time at the company despite the fact that she said that Google began to see an increase in Black technical talent hiring based on her efforts. The suit also alleges that when she was nominated for a pay raise, the level increase was blocked by a manager who told Curley that she was "'intimidating,' 'unwelcoming,'" and — a stereotype Black women in America are all too familiar with — "'angry,'" according to the suit.
Curley also claims that she was under-leveled when she was hired, meaning that the company placed her at a "Level 3" pay bracket for entry-level workers post-bachelor's degree, despite Curley's master's degree and five years of work experience.
Curley is not the first former Googler to accuse the company of racial discrimination against its Black employees and against Black women specifically. Timnit Gebru, a noted AI researcher and ethicist, was fired from the company in 2020 after she refused to take her name off of a research paper and had written a long internal note detailing her frustration and disappointment with Google's diversity efforts. The California Department of Fair Housing and Employment also reportedly interviewed Black women at Google about their experiences in late 2021, signaling that the state's labor regulator may be investigating the company's employment and hiring practices.
Google's tech workforce alone is made up of about 2.3% Black workers, according to the lawsuit. Just over 4% of Google employees are Black, and 8.8% of new hires in 2021 at the company identify as Black, according to Google's 2021 diversity report. The company has also battled above-average levels of attrition for its Black workers over the last two years, and wrote that "when it comes to our efforts to retain underrepresented talent, we have room for improvement" in the report.
Curley's attorneys at Stowell and Friedman LTD filed the suit as a class action, claiming that Curley's experience of under-leveling and subsequent lack of promotion is one that the small pool of Black workers at Google share. Ben Crump, Curley's attorney, is the lawyer who also represented the family of George Floyd. "Google fails to credit its Black employees for their experience on the same basis as non-Black employees and fails to recognize Black employees for timely promotions, pay adjustments, and title changes on the same basis as non-Black employees," they wrote.
Google did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Correction: This story was updated on March 22 to clarify that Ben Crump, Curley's attorney, is the lawyer who also represented the family of George Floyd.