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Google Employees Around the World Are Protesting a History of Sexual Harassment at the Company

“A slap on the wrist for any credibly accused harasser is totally unacceptable and unjust, no matter how much money they bring in or what amazing products they helped build."

by Luke O'Neil
Nov 1 2018, 3:03pm

Image: @TedOnPrivacy/Twitter

Walkouts at dozens of Google offices around the world began this morning in Tokyo and will continue around the globe at 11:10 am in each specific time zone. So far staffers at offices in Singapore, Zurich, London, and Dublin have followed suit.

The thousands of staffers involved planned the day’s walkout as a protest of the way sexual harassment allegations have been handled within the company. The protest comes following a New York Times story that detailed how Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, was quietly forced out of the company with a $90 million parachute after allegations of sexual misconduct were levied against him. A second executive named in the story, Richard DeVaul, the director of Google X, the company's ambitious research group, also resigned this week when it was reported he has sexually harassed a job applicant.

As reported in the Washington Post and elsewhere, on Sunday chief executive Sundar Pichai sent out an email apologizing for the way the company had handled such allegations in the past, and revealed that 48 people, and 13 managers, had been fired over the past two years.

“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” he wrote in the email to employees. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. and, yes, here at Google, too.”

Many of the thousands of Google's employees worldwide are walking out today to make sure management knows they are unhappy with what has been seen as a tendency to sweep incidents of harassment under the rug.

“I know first hand that our human resources and employee relations processes aim to protect the company, not the employees,” Colin McMillen, who works at the Google offices in Cambridge, MA and planned to walk out today, told me in an email. “I know secondhand multiple stories of people taking credible allegations of harassment or worse to HR and getting unhelpful solutions.”

“Of the demands listed, the ones that matter most to me are the ones about HR processes, including being able to have a trusted colleague in the room when reporting, and having a person whose job is to advocate for employees, not minimizing legal risk,” McMillen said.

“A slap on the wrist for any credibly accused harasser is totally unacceptable and unjust, no matter how much money they bring in or what amazing products they helped build,” said another employee from the Cambridge office who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions at work. “The lowest-paid worker must be given the same respect in a dispute as the most successful executive,” they said.

A group representing the #GoogleWalkout shared the list of demands they’ve put together for the company, which include an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all employees, the right to bring a co-worker along when meeting with human resources; a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality in terms of gender and race on all levels, and transparency about data on demographic compensations gap for employees and contractors; a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report; a clear, uniform, inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously that covers all employees including temps and contractors; and elevating the power of the Chief Diversity Officer, among other things.

“As Google workers, we were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power,” the group said in a release. “Sadly, this is part of a longstanding pattern, one further amplified by systemic racism. We know this culture well. For every story in the New York Times, there are thousands more, at every level of the company. Most have not been told.”

“As the recent article and the executive response make clear, these problems go all the way to the top. While Google has championed the language of diversity and inclusion, substantive actions to address systemic racism, increase equity, and stop sexual harassment have been few and far between. ENOUGH. Reassuring PR won’t cut it: we need transparency, accountability, and structural change.”

The high profile stories this past month are only the tip of the iceberg, employees say. They want to put an end to that.

“Upper management at Google and Alphabet are good at saying the right words about not tolerating workplace harassment and holding bad actors accountable, but the gulf between those words and the actions of the company is growing wider. Or maybe we're only now seeing how wide it really is,” the anonymous employee added. “Google has a lot of ways of making our voices heard inside the company, but I wouldn't be walking out if I believed that they were listening.”