In late May, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, erupted as a hotbed for protest activity, with demonstrators taking to the streets for more than 100 consecutive days.
It also became a flashpoint for clashes between police and protesters. Demonstrators were at many times peaceful but in some instances engaged in violence and vandalism, while federal and local law enforcement repeatedly used aggressive tactics in response to the protests.
But legal documents filed by attorneys for the Department of Justice last month have started to paint a picture of just how frequently officers turned to force.
Portland Police Bureau officers used force “more than 6,000 times” during “crowd-control events” between May 29 and November 15 – an average of 35 times per day – the attorneys said, summarizing the DOJ’s review of PPB officers’ conduct as part of a previous settlement agreement.
“PPB has failed to maintain substantial compliance with the Agreement’s force-policy requirements,” they said.
PPB did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on this story.
“Some of this force deviated from force policy, and supervisors frequently validated individual uses of force with little or no discussion of reasonableness of the force used,” the DOJ attorneys said. “Many [after-action reviews] did not include any witness interviews or officer interviews. Many [reviews] contained similar or identical, i.e., cut-and-paste, language.”
The DOJ’s review also found that commands from top brass often didn’t translate effectively to front-line officers, leading to the agency to conclude that in some cases, those officers’ “movements were chaotic and could have been executed better.”
The review also determined that PPB improperly justified its use of force by claiming all members of a protest were engaged in “active aggression” simply by being part of a crowd where some people were being aggressive. In one example, according to the document, an officer justified firing a “less-lethal impact munition” at an individual because they “engaged in ‘furtive conversation’ and ran away.”
The DOJ did acknowledge, however, that officers in Portland faced “substantial challenges” stemming from the wave of protests, which it said often included a “criminal element,” as well as a rise in violent crime across the city and budget cuts that hindered training.
Portland faced a particularly complex blend of protest activity last year, some of which has continued into 2021.
Kelly Ellis, a principal software engineer at the email-marketing company Mailchimp, accused the company of gender discrimination and harassment in a series of tweets announcing her resignation Wednesday.
“Welp, I guess it’s official: I’m leaving my job. I dealt with sexism and bullying, and found out that I, as the only female principal [engineer], was paid less than the other (male) principals outside of Atlanta. I would not recommend friends work at Mailchimp, especially women,” Ellis tweeted.
“Honestly, this sucks, I really didn’t expect to quit today. A conversation about comp went really south. I’m an unhappy camper, but hopefully brighter things are on the horizon,” she added.
Ellis and Mailchimp did not respond to requests for comment.
Ellis has garnered a large following on social media and has frequently spoken publicly about gender and racial discrimination.
In 2017, she and other female engineers sued Google – where Ellis worked for more than four years, according to her LinkedIn profile – accusing the company of paying women less than men, and a court is currently deciding whether to grant the lawsuit class action status. (In a separate case, Google agreed this month to pay $2.6 million to workers to settle racial and gender bias claims brought by the US Department of Labor).
Ellis’s resignation follows a series of high-profile departures by women and people of color from tech firms including Google, Pinterest, and Coinbase over allegations of bias, discrimination, and harassment.
Are you a current or former Mailchimp employee with insight to share? We’d love to hear about your experiences there. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (email@example.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.
Google has reached a deal with the US Department of Labor, requiring it to pay nearly $2.6 million in back wages to thousands of workers over claims that the company’s pay and hiring practices illegally disadvantaged women and Asians.
Google must also review its pay and hiring practices, conduct a gender pay equity study, and provide updates about its progress toward closing the gender pay gap as part of the deal, which was signed on January 15 and made public by the DOL on Monday.
The department said that as part of an audit of several Google locations in Washington state, California, and New York, it had identified “preliminary indicators” that Google had failed to comply with a 1965 executive order that bars discrimination in the pay and hiring of federal contractors.
That audit revealed early evidence suggesting that, between 2014 and 2017, Google had paid female engineers at its Mountain View, California, as well as Seattle and Kirkland, Washington, locations “less than comparable male employees,” according to the DOL.
The agency also found evidence suggesting Google had discriminated against female and Asian applicants for engineering jobs at its San Francisco and Sunnyvale, California, locations as well as at the Kirkland facility.
“We believe everyone should be paid based upon the work they do, not who they are, and invest heavily to make our hiring and compensation processes fair and unbiased,” Google spokesperson Jennifer Rodstrom told Insider in a statement.
“For the past eight years, we have run annual internal pay equity analysis to identify and address any discrepancies. We’re pleased to have resolved this matter related to allegations from the 2014-2017 audits and remain committed to diversity and equity and to supporting our people in a way that allows them to do their best work,” Rodstrom added.
In total, around 2,565 women who worked at Google are eligible for back pay over wage discrimination allegations, while around 2,976 women and Asian applicants for Google jobs are eligible for back pay as a result of the alleged hiring discrimination.
In return for agreeing to the DOL’s “early resolution,” Google won’t have 39 of its facilities audited by the agency for five years, though the agency can still bring legal action if Google violates the agreement.
American workplaces have long been hotbeds of discrimination and harassment, particularly for those who aren’t white, light-skinned, male, straight, single, young, able-bodied Americans.
Since 2000, 99% of Fortune 500 companies have paid settlements in at least one discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit, according to a report from Good Jobs First, and that’s not including the cases without a public record or incidents victims didn’t report.
In recent years, however, empowered in part by the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements, American workers are increasingly turning to the courts to hold their employers accountable for breaking civil rights laws and demand companies fix racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, and other biased pay practices and work environments.
Here are some of the major workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation lawsuits that workers filed against America’s largest companies in 2020, as well as cases where new plaintiffs joined.
Have you faced discrimination or harassment in your workplace? Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 503-319-3213, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can keep sources anonymous.
Amazon was accused in lawsuits this year of having hiring practices and COVID-19 safety measures that were racially biased, as well as discriminating against a pregnant transgender man.
February: Former hiring manager Lisa McCarrick sued Amazon after her manager allegedly asked her to stalk job applicants’ social media accounts to determine their race and gender, and then fired her when she complained. [NBC News]
October: Shaun Simmons, a transgender man, claimed in a lawsuit that he faced harassment and retaliation while working at Amazon and was demoted and denied a promotion after telling his manager he was pregnant. [NBC News]
November: Former Amazon warehouse employee Chris Smalls sued Amazon over its pandemic response, claiming it violated civil rights laws by failing to protect Black, Brown, and immigrant warehouse workers from COVID-19 while looking out for its mostly white managers. [Business Insider]
November: Denard Norton, a Black Amazon warehouse employee, sued the company accusing it of denying him promotions based on race and ignoring his repeated complaints about coworkers’ racist remarks. [NJ.com]
Bloomberg LP was hit by lawsuits accusing it of aiding and abetting Charlie Rose’s sexual harassment, as well as racial and gender bias in its pay and promotion practices.
June: Two women who had accused ex-CBS News host Charlie Rose of sexual harassment also sued Bloomberg for “aiding and abetting” Rose, who operated his independently owned studio out of Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. [The Hollywood Reporter]
August: Former Bloomberg reporter Nafeesa Syeed sued the company for pay and promotion practices that were allegedly “top-down” and systemically biased against women of color. [HR Dive]
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a private philanthropy run by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, was sued by employees who claimed Black employees are “underpaid, undervalued, and marginalized.”
November: ex-CZI employee Ray Holgado sued the nonprofit, claiming he was consistently denied promotion and growth opportunities, and was treated differently because of his race. [Business Insider]
Disney was sued in 2019 over gender-based pay discrimination, and multiple additional women joined the lawsuit this year.
March: Chelsea Henke became the tenth Disney executive to join a lawsuit filed against the company in April 2019 that alleged “rampant gender pay discrimination.” [LA Times]
Facebook became the subject of a federal complaint alleging the company is biased against Black employees and candidates.
July: While not a formal lawsuit, a Facebook recruiter and two rejected job applicants filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing Facebook of “racial discrimination” against Black workers and applicants “in hiring, evaluations, promotions, and pay.” [Business Insider]
Fox News ex-host Ed Henry was accused of sexual assault, while hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Howard Kurtz, and Gianno Caldwell were all accused of harassment in a lawsuit by a former producer.
July: Former Fox News producer Jennifer Eckhart claimed in a lawsuit that ex-host Ed Henry violently raped her, and that Fox News knew and refused to discipline him, while former Fox guest Cathy Areu alleged she was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Howard Kurtz, and Gianno Caldwell. [Business Insider]
Goldman Sachs allegedly covered up sexual misconduct by a top lawyer, and the woman who spoke publicly about it sued, claiming the company retaliated against her.
October: Former Goldman Sachs employee Marla Crawford claimed one of the bank’s top lawyers, Darrell Cafasso, sexually harassed a female subordinate and that Goldman covered up the allegations and retaliated against her for trying to speak publicly about it. [Business Insider]
Google ex-employees who sued the company in 2017 over gender pay disparities asked the court this year to expand their case to include 10,800 additional coworkers.
July: Four employees who sued Google in 2017, alleging women at the company are paid about $16,794 less than men in similar positions, asked the court to grant their lawsuit class action status, which would allow them to represent 10,800 other female Google employees. [Business Insider]
Hearst, the parent company of Esquire magazine, was sued by an ex-executive at Esquire who claimed she faced gender and age discrimination from her former boss.
September: Former Esquire ad executive Lauren Johnson, 52, sued Hearst, the magazine’s parent company, claiming she faced age and gender discrimination as well as retaliation for complaining, and that her boss Jack Essig “regularly mocked” older employees and female workers. [Business Insider]
Johnson & Johnson was sued by an ex-exec who claimed she faced “sexist, harassing and demeaning” behavior from male coworkers due to her gender and sexual orientation.
December: Gina Bilotti, a high-ranking 25-year veteran of Johnson & Johnson, sued the company, claiming she had endured years of discrimination, harassment, abuse, and retaliation on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation. [NJ.com]
Marriott was sued by a Black ex-employee who claimed he was fired in retaliation for complaining about racist behavior by coworkers.
July: Kaseam Seales, formerly a bellhop at a Marriott hotel in New Jersey, claimed the company fired him in retaliation for complaining that his coworkers were exhibiting racist behavior toward him, and that they consistently gave more lucrative shifts to white bellhops. [Providence Journal]
McDonald’s is facing two racial discrimination lawsuits from Black franchisees as well as a class action sexual harassment suit, and could be on the hook for billions of dollars in damages.
April: McDonald’s employees filed a $500 million sexual harassment class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming they faced physical and verbal harassment from coworkers and customers. [Business Insider]
August: 52 Black ex-franchisees filed a $1 billion racial-discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming the company sent them on “financial suicide missions” by pushing them to open stores in less profitable locations, eventually cutting the number of Black franchisees by 50% over the past two decades. [Business Insider]
October: In a separate class action suit, current Black franchisees said they faced a “pipeline of discrimination” from McDonald’s, which allegedly imposed “two standards” for white and black owners, giving white franchisees better opportunities while being more strict with Black owners on safety inspections. [Business Insider]
Morgan Stanley’s first diversity officer sued the bank over claims of racial discrimination and retaliating against employees who tried to make its culture more inclusive.
June: Marilyn Booker, Morgan Stanley’s first diversity officer, claimed in a racial-discrimination lawsuit that the bank retaliated against her and other Black female employees and eventually fired her for trying to make the bank’s workforce more diverse and inclusive. [The Washington Post]
The NCAA was sued by HBCU athletes who claimed the organization’s academic performance policies are biased against their schools.
December: Athletes from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association, college sports’ governing body, claiming its academic performance standards — which are ostensibly meant to improve graduation rates — simply ended up discriminating against their schools, and thus disproportionately impacted Black student athletes. [NPR]
Oracle was sued in 2017 by female employees over gender pay disparities, and a court earlier this year opened the class action to more than 4,000 other current and former employees.
May: Three female Oracle employees sued the company in 2017, claiming it paid women less than men, citing an economists’ study that found the pay gap averaged $13,000 per year. This year, a court granted the case class action status, opening the door for more than 4,000 current and former employees to join the suit. [The Mercury News]
Pinterest recently paid a former executive $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit and is facing another from shareholders over alleged racial and gender discrimination.
August: Ex-Pinterest COO Françoise Brougher filed a gender-bias lawsuit against the company, claiming she faced pay discrimination and sexist behavior from other executives. Pinterest paid $22.5 million in December to settle the suit. [Business Insider]
December: Following Brougher’s lawsuit and explosive allegations by dozens of current and former employees, Pinterest shareholders sued the company, accusing it of harming investors by creating and perpetuating a culture of racial and sex discrimination. [Business Insider]
Uber was sued by a driver who claimed the company’s five-star rating system is racially biased.
October: Thomas Liu, a former Uber driver, sued the company after it kicked him off the platform because his driver rating had fallen below a 4.6 out of 5. He claimed Uber’s use of the system amounted to “intentional race discrimination” because of the “widely recognized” notion that racism often slips into customers’ evaluations of workers. [Business Insider]
Warner Bros. was sued by a former executive who alleged she faced gender discrimination and harassment from men in the company’s senior ranks, which she called an “old boys club.”
October: An ex-Warner Bros. executive sued the company over gender discrimination, claiming she was fired in retaliation for raising complaints about sexist behavior and harassment by male executives. [Deadline]
WeWork was hit with at least three lawsuits from former employees alleging harassment, discrimination, and that a manager intimidated an employee by, among other things, bringing a crossbow and knives to work.
July: WeWork became the subject of three new gender and race discrimination and harassment lawsuits this year, including from an employee who claimed her boss brought a crossbow and knives to work, implied he had connections to the Mafia, and made unwanted sexual advances. Two Black employees also said they were paid less than white coworkers and faced retaliation for raising issues, with one also saying she was sexually harassed. [Business Insider]
Are there other high-profile discrimination or harassment lawsuits that should be added to this list? Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 503-319-3213, or by email at email@example.com.
Huawei has worked with at least four partner companies to develop surveillance technologies that claim to monitor people by ethnicity, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
Last week, The Post reported that Huawei in 2018 had tested a “Uighur alarm” — an AI facial recognition tool that claimed to identify members of the largely Muslim minority group and alert Chinese authorities.
Huawei told the The Post that the tool was “simply a test,” but according to Saturday’s report, Huawei has developed multiple such tools.
The reports add to growing concern over China’s extensive surveillance and oppression of Uyghurs and other minority groups, as well as increasing use of racially discriminatory surveillance tools and practices by US law enforcement.
Huawei tested an AI-powered facial-recognition technology that could trigger a “Uighur alarm” for Chinese authorities when it identified a person from the persecuted minority group in 2018, The Washington Post reported last week.
At the time, Huawei spokesperson Glenn Schloss told The Post that the tool was “simply a test and it has not seen real-world application.”
But a new investigation published by The Post on Saturday found that Huawei has worked with dozens of security firms to build surveillance tools – and that products it developed in partnership with four of those companies claimed to be able to identify and monitor people based on their ethnicity.
Documents publicly available on Huawei’s website detailed the capabilities of those ethnicity-tracking tools as well as more than 2,000 product collaborations, according to The Post. The publication also reported that after it contacted Huawei, the company took the website offline temporarily before restoring the site with only 38 products listed.
“Huawei opposes discrimination of all types, including the use of technology to carry out ethnic discrimination,” a Huawei spokesperson told Business Insider. “We provide general-purpose ICT [information and communication technology] products based on recognized industry standards.”
“We do not develop or sell systems that identify people by their ethnic group, and we do not condone the use of our technologies to discriminate against or oppress members of any community,” the spokesperson continued. “We take the allegations in the Washington Post’s article very seriously and are investigating the issues raised within.”
Huawei worked with Beijing Xintiandi Information Technology, DeepGlint, Bresee, and Maiyuesoft on products that made a variety of claims about estimating, tracking, and visualizing people’s ethnicities, as well as other Chinese tech companies on tools to suppress citizens’ complaints about wrongdoing by local government officials and analyze “voiceprint” data, according to The Post.
Beijing Xintiandi Information Technology, DeepGlint, Bresee, and Maiyuesoft could not be reached for comment.
Human rights groups, media reports, and other independent researchers have extensively documented China’s mass surveillance and detainment of as many as one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minority groups in internment camps, where reports allege they are subjected to torture, sexual abuse, and forced labor for little or no pay.
To help it build the surveillance apparatus that enables such widespread detainment, the Chinese government has at times turned to the country’s technology firms.
“This is not one isolated company. This is systematic,” John Honovich, the founder of IPVM, a research group that first discovered the 2018 test, told The Post. He added that “a lot of thought went into making sure this ‘Uighur alarm’ works.”
In the US, law enforcement agencies and even schools have also increased their reliance on facial recognition software and other AI-powered surveillance technologies, despite growing evidence that such tools exhibit racial and gender bias.