Last week, we reported on Google paying off Andy Rubin, the “father of Android” after sexual misconduct allegations. This story was broken by The New York Times. It revealed that the company had given the former employee a $90 million exit package. It was also revealed that Rubin isn’t the first time this happened.
Karma Always Hits
On Thursday, November 1st, that story came back to bite. As reported by The Verge, hundreds of Google employees stormed a New York City park to protest the handling of these situations. This was all part of a worldwide gathering. It that took place in areas like Dublin, London, Berlin, Tokyo, and other cities. Workers are demanding a clearer process for handling sexual misconduct and generate a better company culture overall.
Google Employees Walk out, Photo by the Verge
One organizer, Claire Stapleton, gave a speech to the crowd of disgruntled employees:
“This walkout is the culmination of a fast, furious week and the work of more than 1,000 people. I don’t know what it will take to change the system, but I do know that we are a crazy force to be reckoned with.”
“This is an emergent movement,” says another organizer who wishes to be kept anonymous. “But, it’s building on a lot of work that’s already been done this year and over the years by a lot of people pushing for structural change,” they continued. However, the speaker went on to say they have faith in the infrastructure of Google.
One clever protester held up a sign playing off of Google’s coding criteria, which is “C++ Style, no exceptions”. The sign said “Code of conduct, no exceptions.”
As time went on, even more offices joined in. Google’s main campus, Mountain View, held their own as well. However, journalists were asked to step away there. They were told the situation was a “private company event.”
Addressing The Situation
One participant at the Mountain View office space, Max Timkovich, revealed that they just “want them to take harassment claims more seriously.” He details stories about HR doing nothing about reported allegations. Another anonymous member was more firm – she says Google has a “broken system of reporting sexual harassment” alongside a male-dominated executive board. “Anywhere decisions need to be made, there need to be more women,” she says.
Soon after the report from last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees apologizing about the situation. The email read that the company was “deeply sorry for the past actions and the pain they have caused employees.” He continued, divulging that Google had fired 48 people – including at least 13 members in senior positions – over sexual harassment and they had received no exit packages.
Pichai sent out a public statement during the walkout, in which he partly reinforced the email statements:
“Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate. Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
On Twitter and as revealed by The Cut, the protestors have five demands:
- “An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination”. Additionally, Google workers could bring a co-worker, representative, or supporter when meeting with Human Resources.
- “A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, for example making sure there are women of color at all levels of the organization, and accountability for not meeting this commitment.” Google would release internal reports on any salary or professional advancement gaps across employees of different races, genders, and ethnicities.
- “A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report”. This would include the number of harassment claims and the division where they were made, the types of claims submitted, how many of the victims and accused have left Google, and the value of any exit packages — like the alleged payout for Rubin.
- “A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously”. The new process would need to make Google’s HR department more independent from its senior management.
- “Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. In addition, appoint an employee representative to the board.”
According to Yana Calou, an employee at the worker nonprofit website, Coworker.org, the first claim should be no problem for Google. Should these demands make any changes from within, however, we’ll have to wait and see.