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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Former Google Engineer Claims She Was Sexually Harassed and "Google Did Nothing About It"

Posted By on Sat, Mar 7, 2015 at 12:56 PM

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A San Francisco-based former Google engineer announced via Twitter on Saturday that she was long sexually harassed by management at Google. 

"It was Rod Chavez saying to me in Maui, 'It's taking all of my self control not to grab your ass right now,'" software engineer Kelly Ellis wrote in a Google + post, and then at more length on Twitter, Saturday. The alleged harasser, Roderick Chavez, is an engineering manager at Google in Washington. A second alleged harasser is Vic Gundotra, former Senior Vice President of Social at Google, who at times reported directly to Larry Page. 

The Mountain View-based company did nothing to aid her when she complained, and instead "one hundred percent supported him," Ellis alleged in a tweet. 

Ellis is a former Goole Plus engineer, the tech giant's social media answer to Facebook. Though Google has not yet confirmed her employment, Ellis received much acclaim in her position as a pioneer for women software engineers at Google. "The Women Who Built Google Plus" on tech site Women 2.0 features Ellis, as well as a CBS News slideshow titled "20 Women in Tech to Follow on Google +." She is now a software engineer at Medium, according to her Linkedin profile.

The allegations come at a critical time for Google, as the company is amidst many public efforts to diversify its workforce. About 83 percent of its software engineers are men, according to a recent New York Times report.

"Google, like many tech companies, is a man's world," the Times wrote.

Ellis' Twitter profile reads, "bitchy software engineer. doing what i can to smash the patriarchy." In her big swing against the alleged patriarchy at Google, she tweeted a bombshell Saturday morning, accusing past management of sexual harassment. More critically, she also accused Google of not stopping him.

"Rod Chavez is an engineering director at Google, he sexually harassed me, Google did nothing about it," she tweeted. "Reprimanded me instead of him."

She then added "full disclosure. I'm not proud, I poured a drink on him. It became about that."

When contacted by SF Weekly, Chavez said he hadn't checked Twitter or Google + today, and denied even knowing Ellis. 

Did you know Ellis? "No not really," he said, “She used to work at Google I belireve. She didn’t work with me but we worked in the same org.” 

Did you have much contact with her? “Not really.”

Then his tone became hurried. “Google may be in a quiet period," he said, saying he would need to check with his superiors if he was able to talk, then quickly hung up.

Ellis told SF Weekly that her tech lead reported to him directly, and Chavez was made director of "social graph," and that she worked on superglue, an internal service of social graph. "He knows who I am, and what he did, because he went to HR when I poured a drink on him," she tweeted to us.

In Ellis' subsequent tweets, which we will embed below, she describes a corporate nightmare: She reported Chavez's harassment to management, who she said rewarded the offenders and minimized her accusations. She claims she was also reprimanded for her efforts, though she did not clarify why or how. The harasser, she says, was later promoted to director.

In her Google + profile, Ellis started a comment thread telling her former coworkers "You really let me down," by not supporting her when she tried to confront her accusers.

One of her former colleagues, Chris Nokleberg, replied "I'm sorry I didn't know about this sooner. I like to think that I would have done something about it, but I suppose that's easy to say now. If it is any consolation, this is getting attention internally and hopefully will result in changes for the better, even if it is too late for you."

Ellis also accused others of harassment. One of her managers, Vic Gundotra, allegedly told her "You look amazing in that bathing suit, like a rock star," while she was a junior engineer at Google, while her team was in Hawaii.

When we asked Ellis which of the offenders played a larger role in harassment, she said the "Rod thing" was more blatant, talked about officially with Human Resources debarment, whereas the "Vic stuff" was more "vaguely inappropriate," and made Google feel like a boy's club.

"If Google really cared about helping women, they would've fired him and not promoted him," she tweeted. 

Ellis hasn't worked at Google since July, she says, adding "This was the primary reason I left."

We contacted Google's press office for comment, and have not yet heard back. The harassment accusation comes as Google offices worldwide are hosting a "Women Techmakers Global Event Series," to celebrate women in technology sectors.

"Google strives to cultivate a wholly inclusive workplace around the globe," the company wrote, on the Women Techmakers website. "A key component of that vision is empowering women to pursue their dreams and build tools that change the world."

Author's note: Kelly Ellis made her Twitter account private after Buzzfeed picked up the story, and she began to receive harassment from users of the infamous online forum 8chan. SF Weekly previously had embedded her tweets in our story, but we removed them since she went private. 
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