Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Google changes sex harassment policies after worker protests

Google changes sex harassment policies after worker protests

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday announced internal policy changes in an attempt to address employee demands.

"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". "It's clear we need to make some changes", Pichai stated in his emailed memo.

Arbitration of harassment claims will be optional instead of obligatory, according to Pichai, a move that could end anonymous settlements that fail to identify those accused of harassment. 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. (He does not address discrimination claims.) The company will also begin providing more detailed information about the process and outcomes in sexual harassment investigations.

Google is rewriting its policies on workplace sexual harassment following a staff walkout over its perceived failings to tackle abuses. It also says Google leaders will take steps to discourage excessive alcohol use at company events, because of the prevalence of alcohol in incidents of sexual misconduct.

"Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", Google said in a released action statement.

"All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe", they wrote in an essay published on the Cut last week.

"We will impose more onerous actions if problems persist", Google said. It will offer extended counseling, support for accommodations and leaves, and it will put together a team of advisors on the Employee Relations team focused on sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

Campaigners hope the promised overhaul of how Google handles issues around sexual harassment will remove a culture of secrecy that saw one high-profile engineer leave the company with an $90m pay out, despite "credible" claims of inappropriate behaviour. The global walkout spread to many countries in Europe, North America and Asia, including Britain, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Google's headquarters in Mountain View in northern California.

Thousands of Google employees participated in a walkout earlier this month in protest. "We've always been a vanguard company, so if we don't lead the way, nobody else will".

"But we also have goals as a company and we can´t decide we are going to miss those".

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