You want a diverse workforce, but discriminating against any single group is still illegal. A lawsuit filed by Arne Wilberg, who worked as a recruiter at YouTube for four years (and five years in other positions), claims that YouTube set quotas, and told recruiters to cancel interviews with candidates that didn’t mean the company’s diversity goals. This meant that white and Asian males were rejected on the basis of their race and gender alone.
Sometimes people think that only minorities and women are in a “protected” class, but the reality is that every human on the planet is in a “protected class” according to US law. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and race, period. It doesn’t just protect people of certain races.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google (who owns YouTube) will “vigorously” defend it’s hiring practices. A Google spokeswoman said:
“We have a clear policy to hire candidates based on their merit, not their identity. At the same time, we unapologetically try to find a diverse pool of qualified candidates for open roles, as this helps us hire the best people, improve our culture, and build better products.”
Whether or not Wilberg’s allegations are true is up in the air, as it is with all lawsuits at the beginning, but his allegations are serious. Refusing to consider a candidate because of race or gender (regardless of what that race and gender are), is a violation of Title VII.
Under Title VII, employers are allowed to make efforts to expand their applicant pool by promoting diversity, but the actual candidates have to be considered on their merit, and not their skin color.
The Wall Street Journal says that Wilberg’s allegations are corroborated by others at Youtube. They write:
The lawsuit filed by Mr. Wilberg and people familiar with the hiring practices allege that since at least 2016, YouTube recruiters had hiring quotas or targets for “diversity candidates,” including black, Hispanic and female candidates. For example, in the first quarter of 2016, recruiters were expected to hire five new employees each, all of them from underrepresented groups, the lawsuit alleges.
This isn’t the only diversity lawsuit against YouTube’s parent company, Google. James Damore claimed that the company discriminated against white males and conservatives. (Political views are protected in California but not according to federal law.) And in September 2017, three women filed a class-action lawsuit claiming gender and pay bias against women.
One plaintiffs, Kelly Ellis, alleged that she was assigned to a lower level than her similarly qualified male counterparts when she was hired as a software engineer on the Google Photos team in 2010. In the complaint, Ms. Ellis claimed she was brought in at a level typically given to new college graduates, despite her four years of engineering experience. She asked for a promotion after learning that she had equal or better qualifications than male engineers in a higher level, and after receiving “excellent performance reviews.” She said she was denied. According to the complaint, Ms. Ellis resigned from Google around July 2014 due to “the sexist culture.”
Regardless of what the truth is–and it’s possible that Google simultaneously removes white and Asian men from the candidate pool and underpays female employees–it’s clear that many people believe Google has a problem with how it treats employees and job candidates.
Remember, if you want to implement a diversity initiative, you certainly can do that, but you need to pay people fairly and hire the best candidate for every job, regardless of what the person looks like. If you don’t, you’re guilty of illegal discrimination.
These lawsuits will be interesting to watch, whatever happens.