Google is known for its tight-knit – and at times secretive – corporate culture, but you wouldn’t suspect that there is a real cult behind the scenes. Well, a Google contractor claims this is exactly the case, as detailed in this unusual report from The New York Times†
Kevin Lloyd, a contractor hired to work as a video producer for Google Developer Studio (GDS), claims that at least 12 members of an obscure religious sect work for GDS and have an inappropriate level of influence on the work environment. Lloyd alleges he was unfairly fired for exposing the group’s conduct and has filed a lawsuit against Google and its contracting agency ASG for wrongful termination, retaliation, emotional distress and failure to protect against discrimination.
The religious group in question is known as the Fellowship of Friends. According to the Time, the Fellowship “believes that a higher consciousness can be achieved by embracing fine arts and culture” and has a 1,200-acre site in Oregon House, California. The group has even become the subject of an investigative Spotify podcast that promises to reveal its “dark secrets.”
Former Fellowship member Peter Lubbers leads GDS and has recruited a number of other Fellowship members including video producer Gabe Pannell, the Time notes.
But things get even weirder than that – the Time‘ report indicates Fellowship members hold positions at Google’s corporate events, ‘working at registration desks, taking photos, playing music, giving massages and serving wine’. Google would also purchase the wine served at these events from a winery run by a Fellowship member. In addition, Lloyd’s lawsuit alleges that Google paid for a “state-of-the-art sound system installed in the Oregon House home of a Fellowship member who worked as a sound designer for the team.”
The Time says it confirmed some of these allegations after speaking to eight current and former Google employees, and by looking at publicly available documents, including a list of Fellowship members, photos of events, and spreadsheets documenting event budgets.
Another contractor, Erik Johanson, told the Time that Google’s partnership with ASG allowed the GDS team to onboard more Fellowship members as contractors are hired “with much less control and a much less rigorous on-boarding process.” The Alphabet Workers Union (AHU) has also pointed to the potential abuse by managers of Google’s contract system in a thread on Twitter†
Lloyd’s complaints about the presence of the religious group were reportedly met with indifference – he claims he was fired for no reason shortly after complaining. Google has responded by refuting Lloyd’s claims of discrimination at the company, saying he was fired for performance issues.
If you’d like to read the full story in more detail, it’s worth checking out the report by The New York Times† Lloyd has also expressed the experience in his own words, which you can find in his post on Medium.