BALTIMORE — Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. For April Curley, DEI is not just the new corporate catch phrase -- it’s her mission.
The former diversity recruiter at Google is suing the company for discrimination. Her class-action lawsuit joins a long list of legal action from former employees ranging from sexual harassment to gender discrimination, both of which resulted in large settlements.
“This work is personal,” Curley said. "If you talk to me long enough, you’ll hear an urgency in my voice because I know the impact this work will have. So, I think about my niece and nephews and sisters -- it is personal work for sure.”
Curley, who identifies as a queer black woman, said in the wake of current events like the death of George Floyd, there has been a reckoning in corporate America.
“Companies feel like they have to do something and do more," she said. "I think some get it right and others are still trying to figure out what that looks like - in the case of Google.”
In 2014, Curley was hired to be a diversity recruiter at Google. She says in her six years she helped the tech company hire 500 students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Howard. Now, she’s suing the company alleging systemic discrimination.
“What I sold to students, in some ways, Google made me out to be a liar because my students routinely experienced micro-aggressions and macro aggressions,” she explained, “It’s time to hold Google accountable for sure.”
According to a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in California back in March, Curley alleges Black employees at Google were told they didn’t fit the company’s culture or weren’t “googly” enough and when hired they were often “pigeon-holed into dead-end jobs, with less visibility, lower pay and no advancement opportunities.”
The lawsuit also claims Black employees were always asked to show their badge or proof of employment and often received harsher job reviews and tougher interview questions.
READ: The full lawsuit below
“After being very clear with my leadership team about the things that needed to be fixed and changed, instead of rewarding that they terminated me and retaliated against me," Curley alleges.
Curley said before she was terminated in 2020, she was subjected to policies and behaviors that she describes as blatantly racist and biased. Though not named in the lawsuit, she said these experiences were degrading and emotionally damaging.
“It was white managers telling me the way that I speak is a disability and I need to disclose to partners internally and externally before meeting with them,” she said. "It was her telling me that she’s intimidated by me and never looked at me for leadership opportunities because she felt like I wasn’t welcoming. It was the same woman who told me that Google couldn’t afford my promotion.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing Curley along with his co-counsel Suzanne Bish.
“This is the ultimate case of David versus Goliath,”Crump said. “It's not just enough to be a disruptor in the technology field, but you have to be a disruptor against discrimination against racism. I think Google is symbolic of America in many ways: they can recite the Declaration of Independence, but the question is, do they really believe it when they say, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equally?'"
Google did not respond to numerous attempts for comment, but a spokesperson told our partners at the Washington Post that they did not agree with Curley’s representation of her termination, adding “We have a large team of recruiters who work incredibly hard to increase the hiring of Black+ and other underrepresented talent at Google.”
“Corporations made all these commitments, that they're going to do better in the way of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Crump said. “And for a moment, you cannot believe them. But like many things, your actions speak so loud, that I need not hear your words.”
According to the company’s own diversity report available online, Black employees made up 3.7% of Google’s workforce in 2020 with a slight increase to 4.4% in 2021. The data on diversity is far below the 9% national standards compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Internet Publishing and Broadcasting industry.
“The optics sounds good when you can say we’ve given millions of dollars to HBCU’s or to other minority-serving institutions and yet at the core of it, internally, they have policies and structures that continue to keep black and brown people out of talent pipelines," Curley said. "So, until [Google] can be honest about that and actually fix some of those things it will continue to be minimal gains - if any gains - in the DEI space.”
The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to change Google’s policy and backpay for Curley and other black employees who were allegedly denied advancement. The parties are back in court for a Case Management Conference on July 11.
“I've been doing this a long time,” co-counsel Attorney Bish said. "And I had hoped that when a certain generation left and a new generation of people came up and came to power, that things would change. Some of what we hear at Google is not change, it's regression.”
Meanwhile, Curley continues to be an advocate for diversity in technology nonprofits like GET Cities and Last Mile Education Fund to coach women and people of color who are pursuing careers in tech.
RELATED: 'We need to tell the truth' | How a racist photo led Northam to reckon with racial injustice as governor
WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.