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Google revising sexual harassment policies after worker backlash

09 November 2018, 06:05 | Regina Holmes

Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Protest Over Sex MisconductMore

Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Protest Over Sex MisconductMore

Google employees walked out of the company's offices around the world on November 1 in protest of the search giant's handling of sexual harassment claims - specifically at the executive level.

On Nov. 1, more than 20,000 Google workers abandoned their cubicles to protest past cases of alleged sexual harassment, following a New York Times report that detailed how the company protected and gave big payouts to male executives accused of misconduct.

"Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (eg personal privacy, predictability of process), but, we recognise that the choice should be up to you", he said in the memo.

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

A section of an internal "Investigations Report" will focus on sexual harassment to show numbers of substantiated concerns as well as trends and disciplinary actions, according to the California-based company.

Google will investigate complaints made by its contractors against employees and require that suppliers investigate complaints against contractors, the company said. And there's something grossly infantilizing about the section of the announcement devoted to reminding Google employees that "the onus will be on leaders to take appropriate steps to restrict any excessive consumption among their teams".

The email also outlines other changes to improve company culture, like mandatory annual training about sexual harassment (previous training was once every two years) and creating a "specialty team of advisors" to look into issues of harassment or discrimination.




"Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", Mr Pichai wrote. Now, Google, one of the world's most powerful and visible companies, could become a model for how to fix what's broken in tech culture - if it delivers on its promises.

Google will offer its employees extra care and resources during and after the process, he said.

A massive turnout at the "Googleplex" in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia and spread to Google offices in Europe. "We've always been a vanguard company, so if we don't lead the way, nobody else will".

Pichai committed to several of those changes, but a demand to have an employee representative appointed to the board was not addressed.

Demma Rodriguez, head of equity engineering and a seven-year Google employee, said during the walkout that it was an important part of bringing fairness to the technology colossus.

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.



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