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Google ends mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases

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.

Google CEO highlights corporate changes following walkouts

This time last week, Google employees held massive walkouts across the country to protest the companys handling of sexual harassment in the wake of a damning New York Times piece. This morning, CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees about the events that was also shared via the companys blog. We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that, the executive says in the letter. Its clear we need to make some changes. The memo follows another recent letter, in which Pichai noted the termination of 48 employees for sexual harassment over the past two years. Google walkout organizer: I hope I still have a career in Silicon Valley after thisThis latest letter also makes note of a private action plan. While not spelled out in its entirety, Pichai breaks down a  handful of policy changes, including  mandatory training for employees and the ways in which the company will handle sexual harassment claims going forward. Here are the bullet points: Of course, all of this only arrives in the wake of both a serious piece highlighting disturbing complaints about former employees, along with a very high-profile walkout on the part of Google employees. It never bodes well for a companys underlying culture when these sorts of actions are required to induce a fundamental change.