Google can apparently still live by “Don’t be evil” when it wants to.
In an email sent to employees Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google was making changes to the way that it handled sexual misconduct complaints. The new policies are the company’s response to the employee walkouts last week protesting the company’s past actions and policies.
“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Pichai wrote. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”
Notably, Pichai said that it was ending forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment allegations. This was one of the demands of the walkout organizers, as detailed in an article for New York Magazine.
On November 1, more than 20,000 Google employees participated in walkouts around the world. The protests were in response to the New York Times report of Google’s history of brushing assault allegations under the rug, particularly when it involved executives — including a $90 million payout to Android creator Andy Rubin to go quietly after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
In addition to an end to forced arbitration, the demands of the walkouts also included: A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity; A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report; A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct; Promote the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO; appoint an Employee Representative to the Board.
Pichai addressed most of these demands in his overview of the new policy. He wrote that Google will continue to “recommit” to emphasizing diversity, and that the Chief Diversity Officer will “continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team.”
It is revamping sexual misconduct reporting in a few ways: there will be a dedicated online portal with live support to address claims, employees can bring along a “support person” during the process, and Google will provide follow-up counseling and “career support.”
Pichai also said that Google will include more detailed reporting on sexual misconduct specifically in its “Investigations Report.” He did not address the call for an employee board member.
An end to forced arbitration is significant because it gives employees who experience sexual misconduct the right to sue. That means there is no mandated policy that allegations remain under the purview of Google; it means Google no longer has the power to sweep something under the rug.
And that’s progress.
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