Employees demand inclusive, safe workplace with #GoogleWalkout

The protests, staged across Google’s offices throughout the world, demand for the tech giant to commit to a more diverse workforce and better handle sexual misconduct claims.

Google walkout

Time’s up for workplace harassment and discrimination at Google.

On Thursday, thousands of Google employees plan to walk out of company offices around the world to protest “a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone.”

Protests, which started in Tokyo, are already underway, with individual offices’ staff walking out at 11:10 a.m. local time. Participating employees are leaving behind flyers emblazoned with the message, “I walked out for real change”:

The Verge reported:

The primary catalyst for the protest among employees has been the fallout around allegations surrounding Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who left the company in 2014. The New York Times reported that Alphabet CEO Larry Page, who headed Google before its reorganization, asked Rubin to resign following claims that he had coerced an employee into performing oral sex on him in a hotel room the previous year. Rubin received a $90 million exit package that Google wasn’t obligated to grant, according to the Times, along with a supportive statement from Page.Former SVP of search Amit Singhal was similarly reported to have received an exit package worth millions after leaving amid allegations of sexual misconduct, while Google X director Rich DeVaul was allowed to keep his job when Google decided to take ”appropriate corrective action” following claims made by a prospective employee. DeVaul resigned earlier this week after being named in the Times’ story.

Following The New York Times article, Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, and Google’s vice president of people operations, Eileen Naughton, wrote a memo to employees outlining the changes the company has made to cut down on workplace harassment.

The actions included terminating 48 people for sexual harassment without an exit package, 13 of which were “senior managers and above.” Google also said it improved reporting of harassment and transparency about its internal investigations, and also requires all vice presidents and senior vice presidents to disclose any relationships with co-workers.

In the memo, Pichai and Naughton wrote:

We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.… We are committed to ensuring that Google is a workplace where you can feel safe to do your best work, and where there are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately.

“Mr. Page and Mr. Pichai also issued apologies, with Mr. Pichai later saying his initial statement “wasn’t enough” and apologizing again,” The New York Times reported.

However, the apologies weren’t enough for many Google employees.

Instead, protesters demanded a list of changes from the tech giant, including ending the forced arbitration policy for discrimination and harassment cases; a meaningful commitment to end pay inequality and hire a more diverse workforce, along with accountability for the promise; and better, more transparent processes for reporting discrimination and sexual misconduct.

The New York Times reported:

“We don’t want to feel that we’re unequal or we’re not respected anymore,” said Claire Stapleton, 33, a product marketing manager at Google’s YouTube who helped call for the walkout. “Google’s famous for its culture. But in reality we’re not even meeting the basics of respect, justice and fairness for every single person here.”

As protests take place, employees and reporters are sharing photos and stories under the hashtag #GoogleWalkout.

A Google privacy engineer tweeted the following from a walkout in Zurich, Switzerland:

Here are other photos from protests in Singapore; Haifa, Israel; Tokyo, Japan; Berlin, Germany; London; and Dublin, Ireland:

Workers in New York City carried signs.

ABC News reported:

Protesters in New York carried signs with such messages as “Not OK Google” and the company’s one-time motto, “Don’t Be Evil.” Many employees outside Google’s New York offices cited job security in refusing to talk.In an unsigned statement from organizers, sent from a company account, protesters called for an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. They also want Google to commit to ending pay inequity and to create a publicly disclosed sexual harassment report and a clearer process for reporting complaints.

The organizers said Google has publicly championed diversity and inclusion but hasn’t take enough action.

At time of publication, Google has not yet responded to the protests. Though the demonstrations mark a significant culture crisis for the company, the issues spurring #GoogleWalkout can chip away at Google’s reputation and ability to retain employees.

Reuters reported:

The dissatisfaction among Alphabet’s 94,000 employees and tens of thousands more contractors has not noticeably affected company shares. But employees expect Alphabet to face recruiting and retention challenges if their concerns go unaddressed.

The protests also signify growing unrest with employees at technology organizations in and out of Silicon Valley. Communicators should prepare now for additional crises across workplaces.

The New York Times reported:

The walkout is a culmination of simmering tensions at a time when Silicon Valley workers have become more activist. Tech employees once moved in lock step with their leaders to make products that they said would change the world, but the industry has come under the spotlight for causing harm rather than good. That has led engineers, data scientists and others to increasingly question how their work is being used.

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