Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy after employee walkouts

Sundar Pichai

Sundar PichaiMore

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.

"We'll give better support and care to the people who raise them", said Pichai.He said that Google will take more powerful steps to address sexual harassment, including making arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.

(He does not address discrimination claims.) The company will also begin providing more detailed information about the process and outcomes in sexual harassment investigations.

"Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns".

Google will also be expanding its Investigations Report to include a count of "substantiated or partially substantiated" claims over time, as well as trends, disciplinary actions, and substantiation percentages.

It's requiring all employees to go through the process annually instead of every other year. "Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", the section (correctly) states at the outset, before delving into details on teams using drink tickets to limit alcohol consumption.

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.

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Google executives overseeing events will be expected to strongly discourage excessive drinking, according to the company, which vowed "onerous actions" if problems persisted. New Google employees (Nooglers) will also get an extra dose of education on the subject.

"For new or vacated positions at the Director level or above, we'll commit to having a diverse slate of candidates on the interview short list", the company says, allowing itself an exception when filling highly specialized roles.

When workers at 50 Google offices worldwide walked off the job last Thursday, they said they were protesting a "culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators".

More widely, Google's move to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims may energise employees at other firms to demand the same. The coordinated effort followed reports that Google paid Android creator Andy Rubin $90 million after it had determined that allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him were credible.

"We will update and expand our mandatory sexual harassment training", Pichai said.

While the policy changes Pichai outlined met numerous protesters' requirements, they do not include adding an employee representative to Alphabet's board or elevating the chief diversity officer to report directly to the CEO, it said.

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