A former Google employee claims he was fired for opposing the influence of a religious cult within the company’s ranks. Its arms are supposed to reach the executive positions.
Near Marysville, California, there is a religious denomination called Team Friends. On an area of 1,200 hectares, they have created an impressive complex filled with works of art, precious antiques and ancient architecture. The group adheres to the idea of a “spiritual awakening” achieved by connecting with the history, art and legacy of prominent thinkers. What does this have to do with technology? And the fact that representatives of the sect managed to wrap the Google branch around their fingers. To the extent that nepotism spreads in the facility and the voice of opposition ends with dismissal. This was tested by Kevin Lloyd, a former Google employee who wants to fight discrimination in court.
Art, money and angelic characters
The Fellowship of Friends is a very controversial group. Its history dates back to 1970, when a former teacher from San Francisco – Robert Earl Burton – decided to give up his current life, to become a sect teacher. The organization has 1,500 members worldwide, of which 500/600 are around its headquarters in the enclosed Oregon House complex in California. The group is open to anyone who needs a spiritual awakening. According to my friends, this state is achieved through communication with “higher impressions”. Thanks to the interaction with music, art and outstanding architecture, they can experience visits from angelic historical figures such as Jan Sebastian Bach or Leonardo da Vinci.
The cult first encountered legal trouble in 1984, when a former member accused Burton of sexually seducing young men to join the organization. Similar allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior surfaced in 1996, but the two lawsuits were settled out of court.
Maintaining a 1,200 hectares filled with artwork and, until recently, a thriving vineyard is an exorbitant cost. The sect therefore asks its members to donate 10% of their monthly earnings. For this reason, Friends live prosperous lives with opera, ballet, and art galleries in place, including $11 million in Chinese antiques. This place is to be the cradle of a new civilization, protected from the end of the world. Team Friends recruits exceptionally talented individuals who are sensitive to cultural goods. These people were found in an affiliate of Google.
Favoritism and nepotism in the ranks of Google
Peter Lubbers is the Director of Google Developer Studio who deals, among other things, with the production of videos promoting Google’s development tools. It just so happened that Mr. Lubbers is also an old member of the Friends team. He came to Silicon Valley from Holland, where – as attorney Kevin Lloyd discovered – there are many members of the organization. Lubbers hold a high position, and their annual earnings are often seven-figure sums. He used his influence to get cult members, including video producer Gabe Bannell, into the ranks of Google. Both gentlemen had a close relationship with the friends’ teacher, calling him “our beloved teacher” in one of the photos posted online (the caption was later removed).
Lubbers abused his power by hiring other members of the cult, bypassing complex recruitment and lengthy enlistment processes. According to Eric Johansson, Senior Video Producer at Google Developer Studio, Friends members were virtually out of any scrutiny. No one looked at where they came from, because no one questioned Lubbers’ decision.
In 2017, Kevin Lloyd joined the video production team, reporting directly to Pannell. Soon after starting work, he realized that more than half of the Panel team belonged to a caste. As it turns out, Pannell’s wife and daughter also joined Google, and group members and their relatives were hired to handle events organized by the company as photographers, masseuses or DJs.
Google often served wine from a winery located near the sect’s headquarters in Oregon House, which was run by its representatives. The company also funded the installation of a state-of-the-art audio system in the home of one of its members. However, Lubbers have nothing to complain about:
“My personal religious beliefs are a deeply rooted private matter. I have always fulfilled my role by bringing the right talent to a given situation.” – Peter Lubbers
There are also doubts about the rapid promotions of Pannell, who in just six months – thanks to his close connections with the Lubbers – has served as executive producer. The above issues did not appeal to Lloyd and were reported to the team manager. The man replied that he would drop the case because Mr. Lubbers was a very big figure. Moments later, Kevin Lloyd was released without cause. Lubbers and Pannell unanimously agreed that the problem was insufficient performance.
The dismissed employee will fight for his rights in court. During the trial, you will claim damages for discrimination, retaliation, and unjustified dismissal. Lloyd believes Google is funding the Friends team. He found that his awareness of this practice made him partially responsible, because after what he had learned, he could not look away.
Stock photo from Depositphotos