Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Employee Walkout

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai

Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture.

On Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai - who was publicly supportive of the walkout, likely because reacting any other way would be a bad PR look for an already tarnished organization - announced that the company has updated its sexual harassment policies. The email outlines a swath of changes, many of which meet the demands from organizers of last week's walkouts. "And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable and respectful workplace", said Pichai.

The reckoning wrought by #MeToo has left Silicon Valley exposed, revealing patterns of abuse and inequality beneath a veneer of progress.

"But one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking".

"We have the eyes of many companies looking at us", said Tanuja Gupta, one of the walkout's organizers in NY last week.

"We have an aspiration to be the best company in the world", Rodriguez said. This news, paired with stories about several other men being rewarded for terrible behavior, sparked an internal movement at Google and on November 1, thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their jobs in protest, demanding change. "Sadly, the executive team has demonstrated through their lack of meaningful action that our safety is not a priority".

The walkout came a week after The New York Times published a bombshell investigative report on sexual harassment at Google. That will now be optional under the new policies.

In the letter, Pichai said Google would take the following steps: make arbitration available for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims; overhaul its report channels and provide live support; allow anyone reporting harassment to be accompanied by a support person; and offer "extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process", including counseling and career support.

He also said Google is consolidating the complaint system and that the process for handling concerns will include providing support people and counselors.

The company said it will no longer require mandatory arbitration of sexual misconduct allegations and will provide more details about sexual misconduct cases in internal reports.

Staff will also face performance review penalties if they fail to complete sexual harassment training.

"We demand a truly equitable culture", organizer Stephanie Parker wrote in response to Pichai's November 8 email, "and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are Black and Brown women".

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