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Google employees push back after mishandled sexual harassment revelations

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.

Google announces new sexual assault and harassment rules after mass protest

Google is announcing new policies around sexual harassment and diversity, following a worldwide employee protest last week. The new policies reflect demands from the protestors, who met with Google leadership earlier this week. We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. Its clear we need to make some changes, wrote CEO Sundar Pichai in an email to employees, which he posted publicly today. The organizers of the walkout, however, say that Google ignored several of the core demands theyd put forward. Pichai wrote that Google will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. Well give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace. He included a summary of the new policies; Google also released a file with more details about the policies, which meet some but not all of the original demands. Got a tip for us? Use SecureDrop or Signal to securely send messages and files to The Verge without revealing your identity. One of Googles key changes is making arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, so employees could take misconduct claims to court instead of privately settling them. Pichai also promises to provide more granularity in internal reports about harassment at Google, offering details about how many cases have been substantiated, as well as trends, disciplinary actions taken, and specifics on what kind of behavior we do and do not terminate employees for. Google will update and expand its mandatory sexual harassment training, and it will start docking the performance review scores of employees who dont complete the training. Pichai also promises to improve the system for reporting sexual harassment and assault. It will create a dedicated reporting site with live support, offer counseling to people who report assault or harassment, and allow Google employees to bring another person to support them when they meet to discuss their complaints. These changes will be implemented between now and the first quarter of 2019. Sundar Pichai November Sexual Harassment and Assault Policy Changes by Adi Robertson on ScribdSome of these changes, like optional arbitration and a support person at meetings, seem to be specific responses to organizers demands. Others dont directly match the demands, but theyre attempts at reaching the same broad goals. The granularity, for instance, could potentially address requests for a publicly disclosed transparency report — although it seems like a much smaller commitment. Google only alluded to some of the other demands. The organizers, for instance, asked Google to elevate the role of its chief diversity officer and release internal reports about payment or achievement gaps between races, ethnicities, and genders. Pichai offered a more general promise to recommit to diversity, equality, and inclusion practices that are focused on improving representation — through hiring, progression and retention— and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone. Theres no mention of some of the biggest asks, like putting an employee representative on the board of directors. While this wasnt one of the requests, Google says that going forward, all leaders at the company ... will be expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged, since it says that in around 20 percent of sexual harassment complaints, the perpetrator had been drinking. In a statement, the walkout organizers said Google had made progress in meeting their demands. However, they noted that Pichai hadnt said anything about an employee representative, and that Google isnt elevating the chief diversity officers rank. Moreover, it troublingly erased demands regarding racism, discrimination, and the modern day Jim Crow class system that separates full-fledged employees from the large pool of less privileged and protected contract workers. If we want to end sexual harassment in the workplace, we must fix these structural imbalances of power, said the organizers in their statement. While were thrilled to see progress on sexual harassment, we will not let up on the demands most urgent for women of color: an employee representative on the board, elevating the chief diversity officer, greater transparency on and an end to opportunity inequity at Google and beyond. The walkouts were prompted by an explosive New York Times report that alleged Google had turned a blind eye to sexual assault and harassment among executives and that it had offered a massive $90 million severance package to Android co-founder Andy Rubin after he resigned over credible sexual assault allegations. Update 12:45PM ET: Added more detail from Googles policy document. Update 5:30PM ET: Added response from Google walkout organizers.