Google is denying claims that it failed to alert temporary and contract workers about an active shooter that attacked YouTube’s San Bruno, California headquarters in April, disputing allegations that the company rushed to protect its full-time employees but left its lower-paid contractors in danger.
A Google spokesperson told Business Insider that contract workers were sent security updates about the situation with or in parallel to full-time employees. The spokesperson said in some cases email updates might have come from the TVCs’ employer directly.
Google’s comments are in response to an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, published Wednesday by a group claiming to represent the 20,000 temporary workers and contractors, or TVCs, at Google and YouTube. Among the many grievances listed in the letter was the allegation that, as a shooter went on a rampage on YouTube’s campus that left one dead and four wounded, “the company sent real-time security updates to full-time employees only, leaving TVCs defenseless in the line of fire.”
The conflicting accounts of the traumatic afternoon reveal the sharp fault line within Silicon Valley’s workforce, where high-paid techies enjoy the perks of a barista in the office and unlimited vacation policies, while the blue collar workers who drive the shuttles and prepare the food complain of being treated like second-class citizens.
The shooter, a disgruntled YouTube creator, entered one of the company’s parking garages and into an open courtyard where employees were eating lunch on the afternon of April 3rd. Armed with a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun, she proceeded to fire “multiple” shots, causing panic and sending people to barricade themselves inside of nearby meeting rooms.
One current TVC that Business Insider spoke to said she was working at Google’s Sunnyvale campus at the time of the shooting and first found out about it on social media about two hours after the incident occurred.
“I was like, ‘What! This can’t be true,’” she remembered. “Then I started surfing the web, and that’s how I found out.”
The contract worker quickly emailed her boss (a full-time employee at Google), who confirmed the shooting had indeed happened. Her boss then sent an email to the entire team, letting them know they could go home for that day if they didn’t feel comfortable at work. However, she maintains that there was “no corporate-wide communication from any public relations person” immediately alerting her of the shooting.
“That is a big fat lie!” she said, when told of Google’s claim that it spread the word to all employees.
Another point of contention is the town hall meeting that took place the next day in response to the shooting. In their letter, the TVCs claim they were “excluded from a town hall discussion the following day.”
However, a Google spokesperson told us that in-lieu of the shooting, TVCs were invited to that week’s town hall meeting, which is typically reserved for full-time employees only. The spokesperson also said that therapy animals were provided to meeting attendees.
“I never received any communication about that [meeting],” the current TVC told us. She did contend that she was based in Sunnyvale at the time, and that it is possible San Bruno TVCs were invited.
The inequity of access to information is just one of the demands the TVCs demanded on Wednesday. When a shooter is on the loose, a lack of information can be the matter of life and death. As one former TVC told Business Insider, though, it typically that means temporary workers can’t access certain Google Groups or book meeting rooms.
Still, such limitations create inequities in the workplace.
“In a country where democracy was developed, I don’t think it’s quite fair,” the former TVC told us. “I will never work again as a temp.”
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