A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant, alleging he was wrongfully fired for exposing a religious cult that all but took over his business unit.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for “religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, and related causes of action.” He alleges that Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the executive had an influence on the growth from the studio into a team. which, in essence, redirected the money to the fraternity.
In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California superior court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd establishes a case that he was fired for raising concerns about the fraternity’s influence on Google, particularly in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed.
The Community of Friends is a non-denominational religious group that believes that spiritual enlightenment can be achieved by embracing art and culture. As noted in Lloyd’s court filing, Fellowship was described as a California winemaker-turned-doomsday cult mired in sexual exploitation allegations. Earlier lawsuits brought by others against fraternity leader, former teacher Robert Earl Burton, have been settled out of court.
The cult typically collects 10% of its members’ income and boasts of having up to 600 of them within its compound at Oregon House, California, and some 1,500 members worldwide.
At Google, Lloyd claimed, fraternity members used their positions to land jobs for their colleagues in the GDS. The lawsuit also accuses community members of preparing work for Google members, such as events staff, and alleges that community members used their connections to ensure that wine produced by the community vineyard was purchased for many Google events. Of the 25 members of the GDS, Lloyd’s suit alleges that about half were members of the fraternity.
For a detailed New York Times article published this week, a Google spokesperson said the web giant has a longstanding policy for employees and vendors that prevents discrimination and conflicts of interest. “We will of course thoroughly review these allegations for any irregularities or improper contractual practices. If we find evidence of policy violations, we will take action,” the spokesperson said.
Google added that, from its perspective, Lloyd was terminated in February 2021 for performance reasons.
Advanced Systems Group (ASG), the recruitment agency through which Lloyd and most of the GDS team members got their contractor jobs at Google, is also named in the lawsuit. Lubbers, Lloyd’s supervisor, is named in the lawsuit as the person who directs much of the personnel and financial flows between the fraternity, ASG and Google.
“Mr. Lubbers has earned status and accolades from increased funding for the fraternity through his efforts at Google that have placed (and retained) other fraternity members – directly or indirectly – on the Google’s payroll,” the lawsuit alleged.
Lubbers told The New York Times that it was perfectly fine for him to encourage people to apply for jobs, and that ASG was ultimately responsible for selecting people and supplying those workers to Google.
The newspaper also said it confirmed Lubbers was and still is a member of the cult.
“My personal religious beliefs are a deeply held private matter,” Lubbers told The Times. “In all my years in tech, they never played a role in hiring. I always fulfilled my role by bringing in the right talent for the job — bringing in the right vendors for the jobs.”
Lloyd, who filed his lawsuit against Google and ASG in August last year, filed in April [PDF] a motion arguing that Google should respond to its complaint: It appears the internet mega-corporation has argued that, as Lloyd was hired as an unemployed TVC – Google’s term for temporary workers, suppliers and sub-contractors – it cannot be held liable in this employment dispute. Lloyd insists that Google was indeed his joint employer with ASG.
A next hearing is scheduled for August 4, 2022.
In 2008, recruiting firm Kelly Services was sued by a former employee claiming she hadn’t been promoted because she wasn’t a member of the fraternity, a large contingent of which worked at Kelly at the time. . Lubbers would have been among them. ®