SA coalition of book publishers and authors have extracted $125 million from Google in settling a copyright lawsuit they filed in 2005. The agreement should make Google Book Search vastly more useful, as millions of books get added to Google's index. The team at Google which deals with publishers should be busier than ever. Too bad it's run by a sexist tyrant who's seen 7 of his 13-person team — all women — leave in a year's time. Googlers who formerly worked under Ramsey Allington, the head of Google's book operations, say he's a terrible manager who has actively discriminated against women in his employ.Bad managers are everywhere in corporate America. But Google's supposed to be different — a new model of management, driven from the bottom up, where ideas, not rank or hierarchy, are what matter. Ramsey Allington never got that memo, according to his employees. Google's famous for its 360-degree reviews, where ratings from underlings matter as much as bosses. But Allington's employees say they were never asked to review him until very recently this year — and the negative results of that lone review process were ignored. His job was not easy. Online sales and operations, the area in which Allington worked, was famously called a "toilet" by top Google executive Shona Brown when Sheryl Sandberg, now Facebook's COO, ran it. Sandberg, Brown suggested, flushed people through the system. Eager young graduates from top schools who wanted to add Google to their resume signed up to answer email and field phone calls, in the hopes that they'd be able to transfer to other departments. Allington's job, more or less, was to keep them down on the farm, doing customer support. But Allington went too far, his employees say, in blocking their efforts to move up or transfer within Google. He may even have broken the law: He's said to have demoted one woman after a pregnancy leave, moving her from an account-management job into an entry-level position answering email — an allegation which may be a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, which generally requires that employees who take leave be allowed to return to their same job. Several employees under Allington have taken medical leave for stress because of the hostile work environment they say he has created. They also say he demonstrated a pattern of retaliating against employees for expressing their concerns about the workplace, punishing them in employment reviews as showing a negative attitude. Allington is what they call an "IPO lottery winner"; he joined Google in 2002, two years before it went public, allowing him to make a tidy profit on stock options. Though he only holds the title of manager, he's well-connected in the company. He's said to have the favor of top executive Jonathan Rosenberg — who's something of a tyrant himself. Allington is also married to Shaluinn Fullove, a high-profile Googler recently written up in Fortune. Connections in the tight-knit Googleplex may well have let him escape scrutiny for years. He was close friends with his immediate supervisor, Laura DeBonis. By the time his employees raised concerns about Allington with her, DeBonis had a foot out the door; she left in early 2008. Her replacement, Doug Cook, responded to the complaints by ordering, for the first time, reviews from Allington's employees — but ended up backing him. Employees finally complained to David Fischer, the online sales and operation executive who oversees Book Search, who started a formal investigation. Turnover in HR slowed the process. One HR staffer told an employee that Google's human-resources department was ill-equipped to deal with complaints of discrimination because it was "such a young department." Google recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. But it's understandable that Google's management is ill equipped to deal with bad Googlers. People at the Googleplex take it as a matter of faith that their coworkers and superiors share the company's "Don't be evil" values; if you're a Googler, you're good by definition. There are processes in place that, in theory, route around dysfunctional managers like Allington. In practice, those processes are easy to game. And why not game them? Those in the tight-knit coterie of IPO lottery winners, like Allington, have convinced themselves not just of its goodness, but of its superiority; Googlers who joined the company too late to make a fortune must just not be as smart as them. Their bank accounts prove it. Why not discriminate against them? the market already has. At any well-run company, Allington would have been long gone, I believe. But the question isn't whether Allington should have been fired for sexual discrimination. It's how many Ramsey Allingtons there are at the Googleplex. And how long it will take us to find them.
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