Google updates sexual harassment policies following protest

Sundar Pichai

Sundar PichaiMore

According to the email, arbitration in harassment or assault claims will now be optional, and the company will track and make public information about reported incidents of misconduct and how they are dealt with.

"Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognise that choice should be up to you", Mr Pichai wrote.

"We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns, including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person", Pichai said.

"Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns", Pichai said in a note addressed to employees.

It followed a series of revelations about sexual harassment and misconduct at the company, including a $90m payout to Android inventor Andy Rubin after he had left Google, despite what the firm considered a credible claim of sexual misconduct against him - a claim he denies. The company will also provide more support to employees who report, including counseling and allowing them to bring a companion with them during HR investigations. But Google also included a new measure in its new list of policies that may catch some employees by surprise: a crack down on alcohol at work and after hours, at all work-related functions.

The email also outlines other changes to improve company culture, like mandatory annual training about sexual harassment (previous training was once every two years) and creating a "specialty team of advisors" to look into issues of harassment or discrimination. The onus will be on leaders to take appropriate steps to restrict any excessive consumption among their teams, and we will impose more onerous actions if problems persist.

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.

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.

Google employees walked out in protest.

The changes didn't go far enough to satisfy Vicki Tardif Holland, a Google employee who helped organize and spoke at the protests near the company's Cambridge, Massachusetts, office last week.

Pichai committed to several of those changes, but a demand to have an employee representative appointed to the board was not addressed. "And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable and respectful workplace", said Pichai.

Some of the new policies were items that the protesting workers had called for, like ending forced arbitration for employees who want to sue over harassment claims.

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