Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Dora Pope

Google bows to worker pressure on sexual misconduct policy

Google bows to worker pressure on sexual misconduct policy

In the letter, shared publicly on Google's blog, Pichai said Google recognizes it has not always gotten everything right in the past and for that, they are sincerely sorry.

Arbitration of harassment claims will be optional instead of obligatory, according to Pichai, a move that could end anonymous settlements that fail to identify those accused of harassment.

However, Pichai's email said the company will "provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report".

As a result, he said, the company will provide more transparency about how it handles concerns in the future, including by giving better support and care to people who raise them. That's happening externally, with increased scrutiny by regulators and politicians, and internally with reports and rising complaints about Google's permissive culture when it comes to executive conduct and relationships with co-workers.

"Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", Mr Pichai wrote. Employee-gathered data suggests the company pays men more than women; Google takes issue with those figures and argues women at the company make 99.7 cents for every dollar men make. 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". "Perpetrators" had been drinking in about 20 per cent of the harassment cases at Google, it said. The company also promises to revamp its reporting process "to ensure claims are handled with empathy and care, and that individuals bringing forward concerns are heard".

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Google Canada's country manager says she shares the same "frustration" as the thousands of employees who staged a global walkout at the tech giant last week to protest its alleged mistreatment of women and mishandling of sexual misconduct.

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. "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".

Organizers say they intend to meet with Google execs in pursuit of getting all - not just some - of their demands met.

When a complaint goes into arbitration, an employee waives their right to sue.

"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", Parker said.

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