CEO touts new policies, allows colleagues to accompany one another during HR complaints. Just a week after thousands of Google employees worldwide protested the companys inadequate response to sexual harassment, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company would agree to the first of the organizers demands: ending mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases. Pichai released a public memo in which he said that arbitration, a quasi-legal private dispute resolution process that often favors corporations over individuals, would now be "optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims." "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 recognize that choice should be up to you," he wrote. The company also said in a longer document that it would be changing the way it conducts internal investigations, noting that there would now be a "global process that will allow Googlers to be accompanied by a companion during an HR investigation, or when raising/reporting any harassment or discrimination concerns to HR." Protestors also asked for four other changes, which appear to not have been implemented yet: In December 2017, Microsoft announced that it would end forced arbitration, but few if any other major tech firms have followed suit. Meredith Whittaker, one of the Google protest's organizers, acknowledged this protest victory on Twitter today: Collective action works. It will continue working.
What started as a small planned protest against the companys handling of a sexual misconduct case has expanded into a full-blown political awakening at Google. Employees who organized last weeks unexpectedly massive 20,000-person walkout at Google offices worldwide are now pushing company leadership to institute new policy changes and put in place better protections for employees. The spark was the revelation that Android co-founder Andy Rubin was paid $90 million to leave the company in 2014, following a sexual assault allegation. Yet Googles mishandling of the case is just the latest misstep from the search giant this year that has contributed to a widening gap of trust between executive leadership and employees. Protest organizers say they now have a template to push for more change at Google going forward.