Google bends to protestors' demands after sexual harassment 'walkout'

Danny Woods
November 9, 2018

Google on Thursday vowed to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual harassment cases, with CEO Sundar Pichai spelling out the concessions in an email Thursday to Google employees.

Arbitration will become optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, Google said, enabling lawsuits on those matters.

The company also said in a longer document that it would be changing the way it conducts internal investigations, noting that there would now be a "global process that will allow Googlers to be accompanied by a companion during an HR investigation, or when raising/reporting any harassment or discrimination concerns to HR".

"Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns".

A New York Times report in late October claimed that Google had paid Andy Rubin $90 million as an "exit package" following reports of sexual harassment from 2013.

According to Google Walkout for Real Change, the protesters' goals included several policy changes at the tech firm, including "a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report" and "a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity".

Google said employees will now be required to undergo sexual harassment training annually, instead of the current every two years.

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Google will also be expanding its Investigations Report to include a count of "substantiated or partially substantiated" claims over time, as well as trends, disciplinary actions, and substantiation percentages.

"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", organizer and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release. But one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking (~20% of cases). Google states that "excessive consumption of alcohol is not permitted when you are at work, performing Google business, or attending a Google-related event, whether onsite or offsite".

"We have an aspiration to be the best company in the world", Rodriguez said.

Mandatory sexual harassment training will also be updated and expanded with those not completing training receiving a docking of their performance rating.

Organisers of the protests had specifically demanded Google put an end to its policy of forced arbitration for sexual misconduct allegations a practice that prevents employees from taking cases to court and is generally criticised for suppressing victims' stories.

While the policy changes Pichai outlined met numerous protesters' requirements, they do not include adding an employee representative to Alphabet's board or elevating the chief diversity officer to report directly to the CEO, it said.

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