Ex-Google Contractor Settles Lawsuit Over Religious Sect
A former video producer for Google has settled a lawsuit that claimed he was fired after he complained that a religious sect had gained a foothold inside a business unit of the company.
Kevin Lloyd, 34, said in the suit that he had been fired after complaining that the Fellowship of Friends, a religious organization based in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, dominated a business unit called Google Developer Studios, which makes videos showcasing the company’s technologies.
The suit claimed that the leader of the business unit — Peter Lubbers, a longtime member of the Fellowship of Friends — hired many of the religious group’s members onto the team as contractors, helped some advance to full-time positions and gave work to many others when staffing company conferences and parties.
Google confirmed on Monday that the suit had been resolved. It also confirmed that Mr. Lubbers was no longer employed by Google, though it declined to explain his departure. Mr. Lubbers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. Lloyd last year brought the suit against both Google and Advanced Systems Group, or ASG, a staffing company that brought him into Google as a contractor. It accused both companies of violating a California employment law that protects workers from discrimination.
The suit raised questions about Google’s dependence on contract employees, who now outnumber full-time workers inside the company. Most of Mr. Lloyd’s team joined the company through ASG as contractors, including many members of the Fellowship.
Mr. Lloyd agreed to settle the suit last week. Terms of the settlement — which was between Mr. Lloyd and ASG — were not disclosed.
Founded by a former schoolteacher named Robert Earl Burton in 1970, the Fellowship of Friends describes itself as “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.” It claims about 1,500 members around the world, including roughly 500 in and around Oregon House, Calif., a tiny town about 180 miles north of Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters.
Mr. Burton believed people could achieve a higher consciousness by embracing the fine arts. Over the decades, he cultivated an extravagant lifestyle with help from his followers, who often donated 10 percent of their monthly earnings to the organization.
In 1984, a former member filed a lawsuit claiming that young men who joined the organization “had been forcefully and unlawfully sexually seduced by Burton.” In 1996, another former member accused Mr. Burton of sexual misconduct with him when he was a minor. Both suits were settled out of court.
In 2008, Catherine Jones, Mr. Lloyd’s lawyer in his suit against Google and ASG, won a similar suit against the staffing company Kelly Services. With the suit, a former Kelly employee claimed the company failed to promote her because, unlike many co-workers, she was not a member of the Fellowship. A court awarded her $6.5 million in damages.
Before taking a job at Google and running the Google Developer Studios, Mr. Lubbers worked at Kelly Services.