Google Changes Sexual Harassment Policies After Massive Global Protests

Google walkout

Will it be enough to quell concerns?

The changes come a week after thousands of Google employees staged a global walkout in protest of the company's handling of harassment charges.

"We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that", Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in a note addressed to employees. It's clear we need to make some changes.

Mr. Pichai said on Thursday that Google would provide more details about the outcome of sexual harassment investigations, as well as improve the handling of cases by allowing victims to be accompanied by a support person.

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First, Google plans to make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.

The company later said that over the past two years, 48 other employees - including 13 considered to be senior staff - had been fired over sexual harassment issues. Those who don't comply will be docked one rating in the year-end Perf (Google's performance review system).

According to the New York Times report, Google gave the creator of Android mobile software, Andrew Rubin, a "hero's farewell" when he left the company in October 2014, praising him and giving him a $90 million (€78 million) exit package.

"Sundar ignored the demand for a worker to be represented on the board and [temps, vendors and contractors (TVCs)] continue to have no adequate protections from sexual harassment, who make up over half the Google workforce and are disproportionately women and people of colour".

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"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", organiser and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release. 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 also publicly share its policies on harassment, discrimination, retaliations, standards of conduct and workplace concerns.

When workers at 50 Google offices worldwide walked off the job last Thursday, they said they were protesting a "culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators".

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.

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.

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The onus will be on leaders to take appropriate steps to restrict any excessive consumption among their teams, and we will impose more onerous actions if problems persist.

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