Google Responds to Massive Sexual Harassment Protests

Google employees worldwide walked out in protest last week of its sexual harassment policies, including reports of payouts for accused executives.

Google employee Jennifer Brown carries a sign during a walkout to protest the company’s treatment of women and handling of sexual harassment scandals on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Responding to a worldwide employee protest last week, Google is retooling its policy around sexual harassment and assault.

Google’s announcement on Thursday comes after hundreds of employees in San Francisco alone staged a walkout on Nov. 1. Recent reports of the company’s handling of sexual misconduct claims, including the $90 million exit package of Android creator Andy Rubin in 2014, triggered the protests. Rubin is one of three accused executives Google silently paid millions of dollars to leave despite no legal obligation to do so.

“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” CEO Sundar Pichai emailed to employees and posted publicly. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

One big change revolves around the end of forced arbitration to sexual harassment and assault, which leaves employees unable to take their claims to court and must instead keep settlement within the company. Channels to report misconduct will come together as one with live support, with counseling and career support offered, and an expansion to its mandatory sexual assault training that includes a dock to the performance rating of employees who don’t complete it.

Pichai promised more detailed investigations into sexual assault allegations and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. But Pichai didn’t meet much of the demands laid out by protesting employees.

Demands for systemic change include: an end to forced arbitration for both harassment and discrimination cases, publicly disclosing all sexual harassment claims; a uniform and inclusive process to safely and anonymously report claims; have the chief diversity officer report directly to the CEO; appoint an employee representative to the Board of Directors, and instilling diverse employees at all levels of the company paired with transparent data on pay and employment history.

Employees have sounded the alarm for years like Kelly Ellis, a former Google engineer who is part of a class-action lawsuit against the company for systemic gender pay gap, in 2015. After announcement went live, Ellis tweeted she would keep the incomplete changes in mind if they move toward negotiation. As the walkout happened, she recapped her experiences with the company and said she wouldn’t mind a formal apology from Google.

View Comments