Google recently faced a lawsuit from a contractor accusing them of not doing enough to protect him from racial discrimination while he was working on an undercover project for Google Maps.
Ahmed Rashid (not his real name) contracted with Google last year to work on Expedite, a project designed to help with the indoor mapping of shopping centers in the UK.
A UK citizen of Moroccan descent, “Rashid” was reportedly harassed, racially profiled, and told he was acting like a “terrorist” by the security agents in the malls where he was working to get the information about Wi-Fi signals. According to the plaintiff, the situation was especially problematic because he could not disclose the nature of his work nor the identity of his employer under his confidential contract.
The racism he experienced took a toll on”Rashid’s” mental health. He told The Guardian:
“I was worried going to work because I thought I might get arrested. That’s what I was living with for 10 months, it was so isolating. It pushed me point of feeling suicidal. The looks I was getting, I just felt completely outcast.”
He raised the issue with Google, but said the company did not protect him. When he asked for a badge or tag that could prevent him from being harassed and show that he was working with Google, he claims that his request was ignored. Later, when he reported an incident in which a security guard followed him around the shopping center while working, he claims that later the same day Google withdrew an offer for a new contract with him instead of intervening. That’s when he filed suit against the tech giant.
Google has denied all of the allegations. However, they settled the suit for £4,000, requiring all parties to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
“There was a complete disregard for the safety and interest of contractors. This research was being conducted in secret at the expense of the security of Google contractors that fit a stereotypically Muslim/Arab profile, there weren’t any Arabs on the board designing this project.”
One of “Rashid’s” white co-workers on the project has backed up his claims, despite also signing a non-disclosure agreement. He too spoke with The Guardian, saying:
“It would have been helpful to all of us to have ID because we all got stopped, but a lot of us didn’t have problems because we were white. Google could have done more to help him.”
Despite all the moves that Google has recently taken in response to the walkout, “Rashid” still thinks there is a lot more to be done:
“We need to address sexual misconduct, but nobody is talking about inter-sectional issues, like institutional discrimination and racism. The company must address issues of systemic racism and discrimination, including pay equity and rates of promotion, and not just sexual harassment alone.”
In response, Google told The Guardian:
“We often work with service providers to measure Wi-Fi signal strength, which helps us improve Google’s mapping products. All employees and contractors are provided with clear guidelines that outline the details of their project and role, and they’re instructed to be forthright about the fact that they’re working on behalf of Google.”
Because of the confidentiality agreement, we’re unlikely to get more details about the incident.