YouTube Hiring for Some Positions Excluded White and Asian Men, Lawsuit Says

Kirsten Grind and Douglas MacMillan, Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2017

YouTube last year stopped hiring white and Asian males for technical positions because they didn’t help the world’s largest video site achieve its goals for improving diversity, according to a civil lawsuit filed by a former employee.

The lawsuit, filed by Arne Wilberg, a white male who worked at Google for nine years, including four years as a recruiter at YouTube, alleges the division of Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL -1.47% Google set quotas for hiring minorities. Last spring, YouTube recruiters were allegedly instructed to cancel interviews with applicants who weren’t female, black or Hispanic, and to “purge entirely” the applications of people who didn’t fit those categories, the lawsuit claims.

A Google spokeswoman said the company will vigorously defend itself in the lawsuit. “We have a clear policy to hire candidates based on their merit, not their identity,” she said in a statement. “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.”

People familiar with YouTube’s and Google’s hiring practices in interviews corroborated some of the lawsuit’s allegations, including the hiring freeze of white and Asian technical employees, and YouTube’s use of quotas.

Diversity Deficit

White males still comprised the bulk of U.S. employees at top tech giants last year, despite mounting efforts to improve diversity.

Mr. Wilberg’s lawsuit, filed in January in California’s San Mateo County Superior Court, alleges that Google discriminated against him for his sex and race, retaliated by firing him when he complained, and in the process violated antidiscrimination laws. Mr. Wilberg declined to comment through his attorney.

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Google in particular has found itself in the middle of the gender debate following dueling lawsuits in January, one that alleged the company discriminated against women, the other claiming discrimination against conservative white men. The latter suit was filed by plaintiff James Damore, an engineer who was fired from the company last year for distributing a memo that suggested men were better suited to certain tech jobs than women. Google has said it disagrees with the allegations in those suits.

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Google’s internal website says “there is no such thing as a ‘diversity headcount’” at the company, according to one employee. The site also says it has a small program that allows hiring managers to bring on candidates from underrepresented groups.

Silicon Valley has faced public scrutiny over the amount of diversity in its workforce. The technology industry is more white (68.5%) than the overall U.S. private-sector workforce (63.5%), according to data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2014. Women make up about 30% of employees at leading tech companies in Silicon Valley, while they account for about 49% of workers at non-tech firms in the same region.

About 69% of Google’s employees last year were men, down 1 percentage point from 2014, the company said. The portion of Google’s workforce that is white or Asian has remained at 91% since 2014.

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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.

Recruiters used what was known internally as a “diversity tracker,” to track minority hiring, the people familiar with hiring practices at YouTube and Google said. For the week of March 20, 2017, for example, the team tracked a year-to-date goal of 21 African-American hires, with one actually hired in that period, according to an internal YouTube email attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit.

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YouTube allegedly tried to cover up the hiring practices in two instances, according to the complaint and a person familiar with the matter. In January 2016, Mr. Wilberg alleges, he was told in a meeting that YouTube had to “clean up” its diversity hiring practices, and that managers deleted all email messages about those goals. {snip}

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