Google overhauls sexual harassment policies after worldwide protests

10 November, 2018, 02:32 | Author: Brooke Harris
  • In Mountain View Dublin New York and more Google employees walked out to protest the way Google handles sexual misconduct allegations

Facebook did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment.

After years as a free-wheeling, fast-growing startup, Google is trying to adjust to the responsibilities and realities of being one of the world's most powerful companies. 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.

The protest took shape after Google said it had fired 48 employees in the past two years - including 13 senior executives - as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct. The report further added that Google in the past also had protected many of its employees who were accused of sexual misconduct by other employees.

"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", organizer and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release. "It's clear we need to make some changes" said Sunder Pichai in the blog post.

Pichai's comments come after the company's controversial attempt to launch a censored search product in China - known as Project Dragonfly - triggered an outcry among employees and USA politicians amid an escalating trade war and concerns over freedom of speech.

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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.

In addition, the company will expect its leaders to foster environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is "strongly" discouraged.

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. "Whatever form it takes, I actually don't know the answer", said Pichai in an interview with The New York Times published on Thursday.

Demands posted by organisers included an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees, along with a right for every Google worker to bring a co-worker, representative, or supporter when filing a harassment claim.

"We have the eyes of many companies looking at us", said Tanuja Gupta, one of the walkout's organizers in NY last week. "However, the response ignored several of the core demands - like elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on the board - and troublingly erased those focused on racism, discrimination, and the structural inequity built into the modern day Jim Crow class system that separates "full time" employees from contract workers".

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