Google announces new sexual harassment policies after mass protest by staff

Ann Santiago
November 10, 2018

Hours after Google CEO Sundar Pichai emailed employees a plan to end forced arbitration in cases involving sexual harassment and assault at the company, organizers of last week's global Google walkout responded with a statement of their own. Will it be enough to quell concerns?

"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".

The tech boss said it had become clear that to live up to the "high bar" set for Google, changes must be made.

Google will provide more details about sexual misconduct cases in internal reports available to all employees.

Google on Thursday said it's making changes to the way it handles sexual harassment cases, including greater transparency, new reporting channels, and making arbitration optional for individual harassment and assault claims.

"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". Google states that "excessive consumption of alcohol is not permitted when you are at work, performing Google business, or attending a Google-related event, whether onsite or offsite". Women account for 31 per cent of Google's employees worldwide, and it's lower for leadership roles.

- Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors.

The company is also stepping up its training aimed at preventing misconduct. While McDonalds reiterated its commitment to preventing sexual harassment in its restaurants in an email to AP, the union's lawyer claimed that there was no evidence of any change and existing policies were ineffective.

Some teams had imposed "two-drink limits", he said, while others had introduced a ticketing system to stop alcohol flowing freely.

Google said it had no further comment beyond Pichai's letter. A New York Times report spurred the protests after it revealed that Google gave a $90-million exit package to a top executive in 2014 after he was accused of sexual harassment.

The process it follows to handle harassment and discrimination will also be made public.

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

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

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