Harassment victims at Google gain more power

Google walkout

Google employees walked out of the company's offices around the world on November 1 in protest of the search giant's handling of sexual harassment claims - specifically at the executive level.

In an attempt to address a key criticism of how the company failed to adequately deal with sexual assault claims when made against senior management, the CEO said Google will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.

Pichai's memo says that while Google "never required confidentiality", employees with harassment or assault claims can now choose whether or not to go through the arbitration process.

However, the Tech Workers Coalition, which launched a retaliation hotline for Google employees who participated in last week's protest, says that the new policies don't do enough to protect those temp, vendor and contract workers (TVCs), the report said. 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.

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.

Also of interest is Google's stance on alcohol.

"Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", Mr Pichai wrote. But one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking (~20% of cases). It will offer extended counseling, support for accommodations and leaves, and it will put together a team of advisors on the Employee Relations team focused on sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

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A massive turnout at the "Googleplex" in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia and spread to Google offices in Europe.

The walkout, which took place on November 1, saw approximately 20,000 employees leave their Google offices around the globe at 11:10 a.m. local time.

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

"We have an aspiration to be the best company in the world", Rodriguez said.

The Google protest organizers last week demanded an end to forced arbitration, a single system for anonymously reporting harassment and a promise that the chief diversity officer would report directly to the CEO.

Pichai sent out an email to all Google employees this morning, and in the sake of trying to be more transparent with the public on these matters, shared it in the form of a blog post for everyone to see.

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