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Employee protest over sexual misconduct

Thousands of Google employees around the world walked off their jobs today in a protest against the technology giant’s actions on sexual misconduct. Organizers said the protest, planned for 11 a.m. in various time zones, hit 60 percent of offices world-wide.

Widespread anger erupted among Googlers after revelations that Google awarded Andy Rubin, considered the father of the company’s Android operating system, a $90 million golden parachute after he was asked to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. The New York Times reported that Rubin was among three executives Google had protected after such accusations, with two given payouts of millions of dollars and one retaining a highly compensated job in the firm.

The protesters published a list of demands, including an end to forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, an end to alleged inequities in pay, a commitment to placing women of color at all levels of the company; a public sexual-harassment “transparency report;” a clear process for anonymously reporting sexual misconduct; and promotion of the firm’s diversity chief to a position reporting directly to the CEO.

“A company is nothing without its workers,” the seven core organizers said in their statement of demands published on website The Cut. “From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners. Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “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.”

The walkout is the latest employee protest at the digital advertising giant. In the spring, Google backed away from its lucrative “Project Maven” deal providing artificial intelligence technology for the Pentagon’s drone program after employees protested. In August, employees again pushed back over Google’s plan to offer a censored search engine in China.

In response to the Times article about Rubin, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and diversity chief Eileen Naughton said in a letter to employees that the report was “difficult to read,” but that the company reviews and investigates every complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, and takes action.

“In recent years, we’ve made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority,” the letter said. “In the last two years, 48 people have been terminated for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above. None of these individuals received an exit package.”

Check back for updates.

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