Economy

Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy after employee walkouts

Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy after employee walkouts

Will it be enough to quell concerns?

Google on Thursday vowed to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual harassment cases, with CEO Sundar Pichai spelling out the concessions in an email Thursday to Google employees.

In a memo to employees on Thursday, the Indian-origin CEO said, "We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that".

"I'm here protesting against harassment in the workplace to make sure we don't protect or support those perpetrators of harassment", one protester told Sky News.

The measures, Mr Pichai said, will increase transparency around instances of sexual harassment, expand mandatory training, and offer increased support for those with claims.

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On Nov. 1, more than 20,000 Google workers abandoned their cubicles to protest past cases of alleged sexual harassment, following a New York Times report that detailed how the company protected and gave big payouts to male executives accused of misconduct. When previously confronted with accusations that it shortchanges women - made by the U.S. Labor Department and in lawsuits filed by female employees -Google has maintained that its compensation system doesn't discriminate between men and women.

It mirrors a change made by ride-hailing service Uber after complaints from its women employees prompted an internal investigation concluding its rank had been poisoned by rampant sexual harassment. And there's something grossly infantilizing about the section of the announcement devoted to reminding Google employees that "the onus will be on leaders to take appropriate steps to restrict any excessive consumption among their teams".

"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", organiser and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release. Instead, Google noted that its chief diversity officer provides recommendations to the board through the company's Leadership Development and Compensation Committee. Google said in an additional document detailing changes that it will routinely review contractor and temp worker suppliers to see if they adhere to agreements around the handling of employee complaints.

"[The] company must address issues of systemic racism and discrimination, including pay equity and rates of promotion, and not just sexual harassment alone", continued the statement. For example, many teams have already put two-drink limits in place for events. 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.

Optional arbitration for claims on sexual harassment and sexual assault.