Google Changes Its Sexual Harassment Policies After Employee Protest
The #GoogleWalkout pushed Google to take a step to address inequality.
After around 20,000 Google employees around the world staged a walkout in response to a perceived corporate culture of sexual discrimination, Google announced that it was meet their demands, Vox Reports.
Google executives said that sexual assault policies will be updated and they published a corresponding report.
The concessions are a sign of the growing strength of the #MeToo movement, which has won numerous victories for women’s rights over the past year and held powerful men accountable for sexual misconduct, according to the New York Times.
The intersection of #MetToo and Google came after thousands of employees used the hashtag #googlewalkout on Nov. 1, and left their workplaces with signs saying things like “Don’t Be Evil,” mocking one of Google’s famous mottos. Protestors were furious after a Times article revealed how Android phone creator Andy Rubin allegedly coerced a subordinate worker into performing oral sex. According to the article, Rubin received a $90 million exit package after being asked to resign, and Google kept two other executives’ sexual misconduct allegations under wraps for the past decade.
“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in the email, which was also published on the company’s website.
Workers published a list of demands that are designed to end sexual harassment, discrimination, and systematic racism within the company.
As suggested by the protestors, Google has now eliminated forced arbitration in harassment cases.
“We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you," wrote Pichai.
The company will also report the number of sexual harassment claims and substantiated rates in its Internal Investigations report. However, the numbers will not be made public, which was a demand of the protesters.
Google offered several extra care resources for its staff, including those who are victims of sexual harassment. They also said that they would take steps to limit staff alcohol consumption, noting that while it is not the cause of sexual harassment, it has played a role in multiple company complaints.
Workers said that while strides were being made to improve sexual assault policies, the company failed to address their concerns about discrimination and diversity. Google’s statement did not mention pay equity or the protestor’s requests to better incorporate Danielle Brown, Google’s chief diversity officer.
“The response ignored several of the core demands — like elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on the board — and troublingly erased those focused on racism, discrimination, and the structural inequity built into the modern day Jim Crow class system that separates 'full time' employees from contract workers," a post on Medium by some of the protesters read.
In recent years, these issues have been repeated points of contention at Google.
Last year, former Google employee James Damore published an anti-diversity memo that argued men were psychologically and biologically better suited to work in the tech industry than women. While Damore was eventually fired, protesters criticized Google for publicly celebrating diversity and inclusion without actually having it within the company. About 70% of Google employees are men and 53% are white, according to the company’s diversity statistics.
The protestors released an additional statement, saying, “This is part of a growing movement, not just in tech, but across the country, including teachers, fast food workers, and others who are using their strength in numbers to make real change. We know that it can be more difficult for other workers to stand up which is why we stand in solidarity with the temporary and contract workers here at Google, but we encourage everyone who feels this injustice to take collective action.”