DeepMind has waited months to fire a researcher accused of sexual misconduct, whistleblowers say

A former employee of DeepMind, Google’s AI research lab, has accused the company’s human resources department of deliberately delaying their response to their complaints about sexual misconduct in the workplace reported by the financial times.

In an open letter posted on Medium, the former employee (who calls herself Julia to protect her identity), says she was sexually harassed by a senior researcher for months while working at the London-based company. During that time, she was allegedly subjected to numerous sexual proposals and inappropriate messages, including some detailing previous sexual violence against women and threats of self-harm.

Julia contacted the company’s human resources and complaints team back in August 2019 to outline her interactions with the lead researcher, and she filed a formal complaint in December 2019. The researcher in question was reportedly only fired in October 2020. He did not seek a suspension and even received a corporate bonus while HR dealt with Julia’s complaint, leaving Julia fearful for her safety – and that of her other female colleagues.

Although the financial times‘ Report says her case was not fully resolved until seven months after she first reported the misconduct, Julia said The edge that the whole process actually took 10 months. She claims DeepMind’s communications team used “semantics” to “push back”. financial times‘ story and reduce the time it took to process her case.

“It’s actually been 10 months, her [DeepMind] argued there were “only” 7 because the appeal was over at that point, although the disciplinary hearing continued for another 2 months and included further rounds of questioning for me,” said Julia. “My point is, whether it was 10 months or 7 months, it was way, way too long.”

Aside from believing her case was “deliberately protracted,” Julia also claims two different HR managers told her she would face “disciplinary action” if she spoke out. Her supervisor allegedly required her to attend meetings with the lead researcher, even though she had “partial” knowledge of her report financial times says. While Julia herself has not signed a non-disclosure agreement, many other DeepMind employees have entered into such an agreement.

In a separate post on mediumJulia and others made several suggestions on how Alphabet (the parent company of Google and DeepMind) can better respond to complaints and reported issues, such as resolving complaints.

The Alphabet Workers Union also expressed their support for Julia in a tweet, noting, “The NDAs we sign should never be used to silence victims of workplace harassment or abuse. Alphabet should have a global policy against this.”

In a statement to The edge, DeepMind Interim Head of Communications Laura Anderson acknowledged the struggles Julia went through but avoided taking responsibility for her experiences. “DeepMind takes all allegations of workplace misconduct extremely seriously and we place the safety of our employees at the heart of everything we do,” said Anderson. “The allegations have been thoroughly investigated and the person being investigated for misconduct has been fired with no severance payments… We are sorry that our former employee experienced what he did and we know he found the process difficult.” found.”

DeepMind has faced concerns about the treatment of employees in the past. 2019, a Bloomberg report said DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, aka “Moose,” has been placed on administrative leave over the controversy surrounding some of his projects. Suleyman left the company later that year to join Google. In 2021, a Wall Street Journal report revealed Suleyman was stripped of managerial duties in 2019 for allegedly bullying employees. Google also launched an investigation into his behavior at the time, but never made the findings public.

“If anyone is in a similar situation, join a union first before something bad happens,” Julia said in response to the broader concerns. “If something bad then happens: Document everything. know your rights Don’t let her drag it out. Stay vocal. These stories are real, they happen to your colleagues.”

Correction April 5th 6:51pm ET: An earlier version of the story said that Julia signed a non-disclosure agreement. You don’t, but other DeepMind employees do. We regret the mistake. DeepMind has waited months to fire a researcher accused of sexual misconduct, whistleblowers say

Fry Electronics Team

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