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[flagged] Google’s top lawyer allegedly had affairs with multiple employees (theverge.com)
58 points by Tomte 52 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

> According to Blakely, Drummond refused to pay child support at times and also went long stretches without seeing his child.

How does one get away with not paying child support and not having wages garnished? I thought the courts were very aggressive in enforcing child support.

I'd imagine being a C-level executive at one of the world's biggest companies had something to do with it.

Interesting, he was also charged by the SEC in 2005 for failing to register $80M in employee stock options prior to Google's IPO[0]

0: https://www.sec.gov/news/press/2005-6.htm

> I thought the courts were very aggressive in enforcing child support.

I imagine Google's top lawyer is rather better at that. Also, I suspect we're not hearing an equal balance of stories about unpaid child support.

>I imagine Google's top lawyer is rather better at that.

Being a Google lawyer (over even Google's "top lawyer") has little to do with being a good lawyer, rather everything to do with connections and ticking the boxes (Stanford grad and minority).

After all the guy failed to register $80M of Google Stock Options with the SEC, thats not some slight or minor oversight or error, but evidence the lawyer was not competent for the position.

You see it every day with general counsel at tech companies, Facebook is kind of notorious for FB Shareholder lawsuits against Zuckerburg as a result of poor legal work from their army of Harvard trained lawyers. Search the Director compensation lawsuits and its clear Zuck has the power to do the things he is doing (as he has majority voting rights as shareholder, is chairman of the board, and CEO) but the FB general counsel seems to regularly authorize corporate actions "wearing the wrong hat" (i.e. Zuck authorizes something as shareholder when it should have been as CEO, or as CEO when it should have been Shareholder, etc...), which is about as basic as corporate laws go.

>How does one get away with not paying child support

Odds are she never went to court to get court ordered child support, and any support he was paying was simply a result of personal agreement between the two.

She could at anytime file for breach of contract (supported either by written agreement of support, or at minimum inferred agreement by showing any texts/email/prior payments to support her claim) and/or petition the courts for an order of child support.

Refuses to pay at times is different than never paided anything. The legal cost to recoupe one misse payment may not be worth it.

Probably not if you just neglect to pay every once in a while.

So what? I've never understood why a company should get to decide whom someone has a relationship with.

> I've never understood why a company should get to decide whom someone has a relationship with.

The second sentence in the article says "The relationship violated Google’s policies which ban relationships between managers and their subordinates."

That seems like a sensible corporate policy for a number of reasons as just one example where there's a corporate interest.

I know of a pastor who asked a woman in his congregation to go to a different church for a while so he could date her because he wasn't allowed to date parishioners. After they married, she came back to his church again. It's entirely possible to date a subordinate by asking him/her to transfer so they're not your subordinate any more.

yeah, but corporate policy is not real policy: google can fire him... but this really deserve media attention?

it's their private life.

It's worth noting that he's still at Google, which means that Google knows about this behavior and accept it from one of their top executives.

In the age of #MeToo, companies are getting called out for inconsistently handling these types of situations. No doubt Google would probably quickly terminate lower-level employees who transgressed in the same way.

I think the media attention is for the other detail after that. Such as withholding child care money and other treatment of women. The headline is only a part of the story.

Thank you !

>That seems like a sensible corporate policy

What the heck? Hell no, it's not a 'sensible corporate policy'. It completely counteracts human nature. People will get into relationships. People who spend most of their time at work, will meet other people at work. A big faceless corp shouldn't dictate personal relationships.

A sensible policy would ask that the couple disclose their relationship to HR so provisions can be made so that others under the manager don't feel like the subordinate in the relationship is getting preferential treatment. You can do that and have policies for that. You can also move the manager or the subordinate to another team.

Why are we OK with these corporations meddling in the private lives of their ADULT employees? Why are there calls for more meddling by certain segments of activists?

> You can also move the manager or the subordinate to another team

This is the common solution, at which point there is no longer a relationship between a manager and a subordinate (so no need to change the policy).

And is exactly what occurred in this case - the female subordinate was moved out of her role in legal to a role in sales.

I feel like looking at the inverse makes more sense. In this arena companies ideally don't want to meddle in the private lives of their employees.

The company doesn't want to be your relationship counselor. One of the more foolproof ways to make sure you don't bring that to work is that you don't start it at work.

What if your colleague was having an affair with your boss ?

What if your colleague is now promoted and people allege that it was unfair ?

What if they break up and end up ruining the working of the whole team ?

What if your boss was abusing you and you go to complain to HR and the HR person is having an affair with your boss ?

What if your colleague consented to having an affair but felt coerced because the boss had a lot of power over them ?

Would you allow such a thing to be rampant in your own company ? It’s understandable why companies would want to discourage it at the minimum.

Also the issues in the article are quite serious and go beyond having an affair

It seems tricky to argue that affairs between bosses and subordinates are destructive to tech companies, in a world where Bill Gates married a subordinate and Larry Page had an affair with one. I think the fight against "inappropriate" behavior at work is in large part driven by busybodies.

Preferential treatment or the perception of preferential treatment by a manager with respect to subordinates is an organizational challenge in general -- at tech companies and elsewhere. If employees do not believe they are being treated fairly the result is poor morale, worse performance, and eventually seeking jobs elsewhere (which can deprive companies of needed talent). The Department of Labor has the statistics on this -- the main complaint most people have about their supervisors is unfair treatment of some kind.

There is also the question of how a romantic relationship can impact a professional relationship. A manager needs to be able to reprimand their subordinates, and sometimes even fire them. Romantic relationships complicate those situations. It works the other way too -- sometimes romantic relationships need to end, and that might spill over into the workplace (see e.g. the reporting on [edited for correctness] Sergey's affair).

It should be blindingly obvious that managers and their subordinates should not have romantic relationships. There are countless problems, and almost no upside for any of the people involved.

I think relationships between people who report to each other are problematic. Affairs, marriages , relationships doesn’t matter. The rest don’t cause as many problems.

They can be more problematic because they can lead to perceptions of unfair or biased treatment at work. That doesn't mean they are problematic in most cases though.

There are other ways to deal with that though short of banning or moving people, eg adding additional scrutiny of decisions by an uninvolved third party and having objective decision making criteria for career related points (promotions, bonuses, pay rises, firings etc) where possible.

Let's say Alice is having an affair with subordinate Bob. One day Bob has a big screw up with something Alice assigned him, and Alice needs to reprimand him for it (that is part of being a person's supervisor). There is no uninvolved third party to call in here -- that is Alice's job as Bob's boss. One way or another their romantic relationship will impact their professional relationship in this situation -- either Alice will be too gentle with Bob, and everyone will perceive favoritism, or Alice will be too harsh with Bob and risk damaging their personal relationship. Very few people would be able to respond appropriately here -- in either the supervisor or subordinate position (and both need to do so).

Your two examples are not so compelling when set aside a third example, the example of the article, in which someone's life was significantly harmed as a result of an affair at work. Do you care only about companies, or do you care about the individuals who comprise them as well?


I don't think I said anything about holding the company accountable for the irresponsible actions of two employees. Under question is whether the company should be concerned about romantic involvement within reporting relationships. This compromises the ability of the manager to provide appropriate performance feedback and also poses a considerably elevated risk of favoritism, which can cause morale issues for the whole team. It may or may not be destructive to the entire company, but it certainly is a risk that could cause a number of issues for a number of people, including both personal and career harm. I've had to navigate a scenario like this once before in my career, and it was definitely one of the more stressful things I've dealt with.

Regardless of whether they're harmful to success, they can be very harmful to individuals who are coerced.

>What if your colleague is now promoted and people allege that it was unfair ?

Unfair? What isn't?

>What if your boss was abusing you and you go to complain to HR and the HR person is having an affair with your boss ?

HR exists solely to create a paper trail that helps the company should you sue them. If you expect them to do anything beyond that, you are just setting yourself up for a disappointment.

You could replace affair with a friendship in all of your examples and it wouldn't change anything. Does it suck when promotions are handed out to friends rather than based on merit? Sure, but it doesn't mean we should ban socializing with colleagues.

While that's true (and favouritism is absolutely one of the worst failings a manager can have), relationships at work have a potentially dangerous failure mode which friendships tend not to have - 'don't break up with me and I'll make sure you get promoted' is unfortunately much more likely than 'go to the game with me on Saturday and I'll make sure you get promoted'.

I think it's right that there should be some protection against that.

Moreover, people are rarely told they can't work together anymore because they're friends. But the potential fallout from a looming romantic breakup can be enough that HR may force an employee to switch departments (as happened in the article at hand).

Beyond that, favoritism from romance tends to be much stronger and far less rational than favoritism from friendship. Indeed, work friendships are even often formed on the basis of a mutual recognition of competence. Romantic friendships are usually based on factors utterly unrelated to performance at work.

An observer of human relationships can easily observe that romantic relationships tend to turn off the rational part of the human brain, which is not great for corporate work.

Who wants to be on the team whose boss just had a violently bad romantic ending with the boss two levels up, and now all your shiny computers are being taken away in favor of beat up netbooks, your office assignment has been mysteriously moved from the third-floor corner area to the janitor's closet in the basement, and every single person in the organization is now getting the worst possible ratings in their reviews?

On the flip side, it may have been a lot more fun six months earlier when your adequate machines were replaced by awesome machines and you were moved out of the windowless second story room into the bright shiny third-floor corner, and you got a new beer tap and all-new office chairs and desks.

But neither case is actually good for the company; both are deviations from the business-rational allocation of resources. And the bad case has an almost unbounded downside; entire departments can be destroyed by infighting if this happens at the executive level.

Companies can pick who has a relationship with whom because they pick up the bill. They have a ton of skin in the game; in some situations it turns out the company had more skin in the "relationship" than the participants did, when the resulting blowout costs the company hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Note that in practice, relationships aren't banned but managed. It isn't necessarily a problem for even two employees who are in a bad relative position to become involved, because it's not like the company can really stop that. It is just necessary to move them around in a way to ensure that nobody is tempted to use the company in unethical ways in their relationship or to damage the company in either direction because of the relationship.

Honestly, it's usually good even for the participants. Having multiple relationships in effect between two people is awkward at the best of times, like when you're in high school working the grocery store checkout and your teacher comes through, and suddenly you're trying to work out the social implications of the set intersection of "grocery customer" and "my school teacher, outside of school" social roles on the fly. When those two relationships are as powerful and complicated as "employment" and "romantic" relationship, just the sheer social/emotional stress of navigating that can be complicated and draining even for two well-intentioned individuals.

The CEOs from HP, Lockheed, Intel, Boeing and a bunch of other not as well know companies have been fired for an affair.

If I worked for an executive that was having an affair I’d want them fired.

It tells a lot about a company that allowed Manangers to date employees. According to the article they allowed it and then outright banned it later.

Says he's the "top lawyer", followed by an example affair with...a Google lawyer.

A relationship with someone that ultimately reports up the chain to you has obvious issues.

Employer-employee relations are inherently coercive if one party has the ability to negatively affect the employment of the other. Note "ability" - it's still an unequal power structure even if you can't find evidence of it actually being used for such.

It's also unfair on all the other employees who aren't the favourite.

And not having such a policy makes it much harder to investigate the far more common non-consensual sexual harassment that happens.

It is a measure to limit personal freedom in exchange for protection against coercion at the workplace.

Does it work? Apparently not in this case. Do I agree? Who cares. Do I get the idea? Well, yes. Seems pretty straight forward.

They don't decide. Google can't stop someone from having a relationship with someone else- but they can stop either one or both from being employed at Google.

The company doesn’t decide anything about relationships. It’s just deciding who is employed or not.

You don't see any potential issues with a boss dating one of their reports?

Sometimes boundaries need a little tighter than they should be for adults because sometimes people can’t handle the responsibility of behaving like an adult, and the employer has to clean up the mess. See, e.g. Google’s ban on political discussions. See also this lady.

Men with power can no longer use their power to attractive woman in 2019 and on. It is against the new societal norm.

Stupid unless it's used with force and or the powerless clearly says or does things that says no I'm not interested and the one in power uses it to threaten to get fired(all flat out illegal and wrong). Im reading a lot of stories lately about clearly consensual relationships that end and the other party are mad so they jump on this bandwagon called revenge.

This argument is flawed. "Men with power" have all sorts of ways to meet other women that they don't work with. Other comments in this thread cover the reasons why it is reasonable for google to have an hr policy for this.

Hmm, cheating with guy on his wife, even having kid with such an amoral person, and she would expect that somehow magically he would be a nice shiny knight on a white horse for her... this kind of story happens way too often. People are who they are, they don't change (or do but at glacial pace apart from some traumatic events), only the situation around them does.

Its always a massive failure of all involved, on many levels. Hard to have true sympathy for anybody but that poor kid which didn't deserve this

People will inevitably have relationships. There's power in relationships. Power corrupts. So its a problem.

But banning them is nonsense. It's meaningless. How about a proactive rule that defines the outcome: e.g. if you have a relationship with a superior in your department, then you are switched to a different department.

Now everybody understand the playing field, and can choose, and some of the undesirable outcomes are minimized.

In your proposed solution, why should the subordinate be punished? The power imbalance goes the other direction and is more likely to be abused by the manager.

Practical: because there's less and less room at higher levels for lateral moves. And remember, a relationship is voluntary. Is it punishment if its a well-known process?

All the more reason the person with the power should be the one who moves. It's a bigger incentive to keep their pants on.

And part of the justifications for these rules is to prevent Involuntary relationships. "Fuck me if you want a raise next year."

Sometimes its not that. Maybe usually?

Its considered a bigger risk to the company, to disrupt the executive suite than the rank-and-file.

That was an example process. Come up with one! None are perfect. But I know certainly, that a company with a pragmatic process will be in business longer than an ivory-tower non-process (Ban work relationships! Punish employees routinely!)

This isn't just about punishing people, though. In fact, to some degree it's not about that at all. It's ultimately about the company, not the individuals involved. It's about preserving stability and minimizing risk. Moving a manager could be much riskier for the company than someone lower down in the org chart.

>The relationship violated Google’s policies which ban relationships between managers and their subordinates

Good luck with that.

I know a few couples with long and happy marriages that initially came out of manager-subordinate relationship.

I suspect there are far more cases of disasters ensuing -- other subordinates getting angry about perceived favoritism, difficult break-ups spilling over into the workplace, accusations of abuse of power (and actual abuses of power), the situation mentioned in the article, and so forth.

Sure. And you can have sane policies to deal with this. One of which is to disclose your relationship to HR so that provisions could be made to mitigate these kinds of issues or to move the manager or subordinate to another team.

If you don't disclose a relationship with a subordinate, you should be held accountable for that.

Bill Gates comes to mind...

Flagged. This would be a great article for Valleywag, but it's not what I come to HN for.

What if they are actually doing this for Google to pay them huge payout to keep quite?

It seems big companies are more like a kingdom than a democracy where powerful men have harem consisting of their own employees.

No big company is like a democracy.


This comment is abhorrent on HN. Already flagged, but calling dang etc

None of our business.

Speak for yourself.

American puritanism with private affairs is really showing here. The article doesn't mention anything illegal or socially relevant. So, none of our business.

Google polices are private rules for internal arbitration, with no relevance outside of google. Why are we even talking about that?

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