A former Google executive who is widely credited with creating Android smartphone software has taken a leave of absence from the start-up he now runs, the company said on Wednesday — a day after a report that he was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate while he was at Google.
Mr. Rubin was the subject of an internal Google investigation in 2014 after the female employee complained about the relationship, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were confidential. The inquiry found that the relationship was inappropriate because the woman worked on the Android team while Mr. Rubin was leading it, this person said.
It was unclear what disciplinary measures, if any, Google took against Mr. Rubin, who left the company in 2014. The complaint by the female employee was reported by tech website The Information.
Mr. Rubin, who now runs the smartphone hardware start-up Essential, asked to take a leave of absence this month to address personal matters, Shari Doherty, an Essential spokeswoman said. Essential did not specify when exactly the leave started or when employees had been told of Mr. Rubin’s absence.
A spokesman for Mr. Rubin disputed the idea that Mr. Rubin had been involved in inappropriate behavior during his time at Google.
“Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual and did not involve any person who reported to him,” Michael Sitrick, the spokesman, said. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while Google or since.”
Google declined to comment on Wednesday on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rubin’s departure. The company’s policies do not prohibit co-workers from having romantic relationships, but its code of conduct states that such relationships can create actual or apparent conflicts of interest. If that happens, the code of conduct says, “It may require changes to work arrangements or even the termination of employment of either or both individuals involved.”
The allegations against Mr. Rubin come amid a wave of sexual harassment and misconduct accusations against prominent politicians and high-profile figures in the entertainment, media and technology industries, forcing a broad re-examination how women are treated in the workplace.
In Silicon Valley, a male-dominated bastion, several venture capitalists, including Steve Jurvetson and Dave McClure, have stepped down from their posts after investigations into their behavior. In some ways, Mr. Rubin is an even bigger name in the tech industry because of how widely used his products are.
Mr. Rubin helped popularize the use of keyboards on phones by introducing the Sidekick device in 2002. He went on to develop Android, which was acquired by Google in 2005. Android software now runs on about 80 percent of the world’s smartphones.
Mr. Rubin’s departure from Google surprised many industry watchers because he had started an effort to build a robotics unit at the company, going on an buying spree that led to the acquisition of at least eight robotics companies as part of what appeared to be part of a long-term project to commercialize robotics technology. Google transferred oversight of the Android group to Sundar Pichai, who is now Google’s chief executive, in 2013.
After leaving Google, Mr. Rubin started Playground, which is part venture capital firm and part technology-hardware incubator. Google is among its investors.
Mr. Rubin founded Essential and released the company’s first product, a premium smartphone running Android software, this year. He positioned the phone as having high-end features and materials like Apple’s iPhone but without closed proprietary software like Apple’s iOS operating system. Even before shipping a single product, Essential was valued at more than $1 billion.