The Fellowship

Lawsuit claims Google division is staffed by members of New Age 'cult'

The Fellowship of Friends apparently runs deep in the Google Developer Studio, and they'd like to keep it that way.


A pretentious and problematic New Age society has reportedly set up shop within multiple levels of the Google Developer Studio (GDS), and they very much intend to remain there — at least, that’s what a new lawsuit filed on behalf of a former employee alleges, according to a recent deep dive from The New York Times.

The Fellowship of Friends, formed in 1970 by a former San Francisco Bay Area schoolteacher named Robert Earl Burton, is purportedly “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening,” and claims that a higher consciousness can be attained by surrounding oneself with “fine arts and culture,” like operas, ballets, antiques, paintings, and wine.

But at least 12 of them have worked, or are currently working, with the Google silo dedicated to producing video content showcasing the company’s various technologies, while many other associates have been employed in various third-party capacities for events, catering, and even massages. Kevin Lloyd, previously a video producer at GDS, claims he was fired last year for voicing concerns about the Fellowship’s influence and role in the department.

The Sanctus Search EnginusJeremy Moeller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Exploiting lax hiring rules — According to Lloyd and his lawsuit, both the Fellowship and a contractor provider for Google named Advanced Systems Group have consistently relied on poorly regulated hiring laws to bring Friends aboard in various capacities in and around the company.

It’s so pervasive that Google Developer Studio’s boss, Peter Lubbers, is a documented, longtime member of the Fellowship — implying he makes well into the five, or even six, figures. Fellowship members frequently donate 10 percent of their income to the organization, by the way.

A checkered past — It doesn’t help matters that the Fellowship of Friends founder, Burton, settled two sexual misconduct lawsuits out of court in 1984 and 1996, at least one of which involved a minor.

Additionally, one Fellowship member and GDS video producer, Gabe Pannell, allegedly had a history of inappropriate work behavior like showing up intoxicated to shoots and berating fellow staffers. All in all, it certainly sounds like a pretty insufferable group of people to work alongside. Judging from a previously successful lawsuit on similar discrimination grounds filed against Lubbers and his former employer, it sounds like Lloyd has a decent shot of coming out on top here.