Google employees stage walkouts over handling of workplace harassment

Google employees stage walkouts over handling of workplace harassment
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Google employees are staging walkouts at offices around the world to protest the company’s handling of misconduct allegations against high-level executives.

The allegations and the company's subsequent work with the executives was detailed in a bombshell New York Times report last week.

The walkouts started at the company’s offices in Asia and Europe, with demonstrators planning to leave the offices at 11:10 a.m. in whatever time zone they were located.

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“All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe,” the organizers of the demonstration wrote in a blog post on the online news site The Cut.

“Sadly, the executive team has demonstrated through their lack of meaningful action that our safety is not a priority. We’ve waited for leadership to fix these problems, but have come to this conclusion: no one is going to do it for us.”

According to Reuters, hundreds of workers walked out of Google’s Dublin headquarters Thursday morning, and social media posts showed large demonstrations at other offices including in Switzerland. 

Walkouts were also reported in London.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement that he supports the demonstrations.

“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,” Pichai said. “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 Times last week reported that in 2014 Google had paid $90 million to Andy Rubin, a high-level executive and the creator of the Android mobile platform, as he was resigning over sexual misconduct allegations from an employee.

Pichai and the rest of Google's leadership have been trying to quell an internal backlash over the revelations. Pichai has apologized twice to his employees, saying that he recognized the first one was insufficient.

And one of the executives named in the report, a director at Google's research unit who was publicly accused of making advances on a woman he was interviewing for a job, resigned this week.

Google said that 48 employees have left the company in recent years over sexual harassment claims, and the company has not paid an exit package to any employee or executive facing internal accusations in that time.

Organizers have laid out a list of demands that includes eliminating forced arbitration — which prevents employees from suing — for harassment claims, a commitment from Google's leadership to eliminate pay inequity and a transparency report on the number of harassment claims that have been filed with the company..

The workers are also demanding that they have a delegate with a seat on the board of directors who will be able to represent their interests in the decision-making process.

"We are building on the work of others," the organizers wrote in their blog post. "Many at Google have been advocating for structural change for years. It’s their legacy and leadership that made this moment possible."

"We are inspired by everyone from the women in fast food who led an action against sexual harassment to the thousands of women in the #metoo movement who have been the beginning of the end for this type of abuse."

--This report was updated at 11:13 a.m.