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Google & Facebook end forced arbitration in sexual harassment & assault cases after 20,000 Google employees walk out

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17 September 2019

USA: One year after Google's #MeToo walkout, new document highlights retaliation workers faced for reporting harassment

Author: Shirin Ghaffary, Vox

"Dozens of Google employees say they were retaliated against for reporting harassment", 9 September 2019

Last November...[Google] employees around the world had walked out of the company’s offices to protest that Google had paid out over $100 million to multiple executives accused of sexual harassment...In response, the tech giant apologized and said it would overhaul its sexual misconduct policies and that it would be more supportive of workers who raise concerns about problems at work...

...almost a year after the...walkout, a dozen current and former Google employees told Recode that many employees are still...afraid to report workplace issues because they fear retaliation. They say the company continues to conceal...issues...especially when the problems involve high-ranking managers or high-stakes projects. And in a previously unreported internal document obtained by Recode, dozens more employees say that when they filed complaints with Google’s human resources department, they were retaliated against by being demoted, pushed out, or placed on less desirable projects...

...In a statement...Google...defended how the company handles misconduct claims. “...All instances of inappropriate conduct reported to us are investigated rigorously, and over the past year we have simplified how employees can raise concerns and provided more transparency into the investigations process...We work to be extremely transparent about how we handle complaints and the action we take.”...

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1 May 2019

Google workers sit-in to protest alleged retaliation against women who report sexual harassment

Author: Caroline Haskins, Motherboard

On Wednesday May 1... the organizers of last November’s walkout coordinated a sit-in across major US and international Google campuses to protest the company’s alleged retaliation against people who report workplace sexual harassment... According to a Medium post published Monday by organizers of the walkout and sit-in, four anonymous employees who have reported sexual harassment to Google’s Employee Relations division have had their reports treated irresponsibly. Additionally, the organizers say Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton—who helped organize the first Google Walkout—have faced retaliation within the company... The organizers of the sit-in are demanding for Google to completely meet all of the demands of the original November walkout. Those original demands included asking the company to end “forced arbitration,” a practice in which sexual harassment and other employment-related claims are handled by an internal arbitration board rather than a court; a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality; a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report; a clearer reporting process for sexual harassment claims; and the promotion of the company’s Chief Diversity Officer.

...[A] Google spokesperson said, “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy. To make sure that no complaint raised goes unheard at Google, we give employees multiple channels to report concerns, including anonymously, and investigate all allegations of retaliation."

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18 January 2019

USA: Google workers launch campaign to end mandatory arbitration for all forms of alleged discrimination

Author: David Ingram, NBC (USA)

"Google employees launch campaign to end all forced arbitration",  15 Jan 2019

Google workers launched an organized campaign on Tuesday to persuade their employer and the tech industry as a whole to get rid of policies that they claim keep discrimination complaints behind closed doors...

Mandatory arbitration generally requires workers to resolve discrimination claims through a private arbiter, often a retired judge or other lawyer, rather than through the courts — a process that the tech workers say means fewer rights for them. In arbitration, for example, tech workers say there is no way for them to obtain possibly damaging company documents.

“This practice affects at least 60 million workers in the US alone,” the group said in a post on blogging platform Medium. “Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace.”...

Thousands of Google employees participated in a mass walkout in November to protest the company's handling of senior executives accused of sexual misconduct.

After the walkout, tech companies including Google, Facebook, Airbnb and eBay in November ended mandatory arbitration for claims of sexual harassment, but they left it intact for other forms of alleged worker discrimination...

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17 December 2018

USA: Organizers of Google employee walkout call on tech community to demand an end to forced arbitration in the industry as a whole

Author: Nick Bastone, Business Insider

Organizers of the successful Google employee walkout are now calling on the rest of the tech industry to take up their cause, 11 December, 2018

...This November, thousands of Google employees and contractors around the world walked out in protest of how the company has handled matters of discrimination and sexual misconduct.  

...Organizers say ending forced arbitration for all employees was the first demand of the original walkout, though they contend that Google's response was insufficient. Google said it would begin allowing arbitration for sexual harassment and assault cases for full-time employees only.

...The group — which consists of more than 20 current Google employees — is [now] also calling on employees from the broader tech community to join their coalition.

"20,000 Googlers walking out of work was the first moment in an escalating movement," the letter read. "Since then, we've heard from tech workers at 15+ other major tech companies about their experiences. We vow to fight together in 2019 until forced arbitration is abolished for all our FTE and TVC colleagues."

The demands on Monday call for an end to arbitration for all employees and for all forms of labor disputes, including discrimination cases.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment to Business Insider.

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12 November 2018

Facebook won't force employees to settle sexual harassment claims privately thanks to the Google walkout protests

Author: Isobel Asher Hamilton, Business Insider

Facebook is putting an end to required arbitration in cases of sexual harassment, allowing employees to pursue claims in court. Facebook announced the policy change in an internal message to staff... It also changed its policy on office relationships — now executives at a director level or higher must disclose if they are dating somebody at the company. The change came a day after Google changed its policy to end required arbitration, which was a demand made when 20,000 Google staff walked away from their desks to protest sexual harassment at the company. The Google protest followed a New York Times report which revealed high-level executives were credibly accused of sexual misconduct and had been allowed to leave the company with huge exit packages... Other Silicon Valley companies have got rid of required arbitration in the past, including Uber in May and Microsoft in December 2017.

... "There's no question that we're at a pivotal moment," Facebook's vice president of people Lori Goler told the Wall Street Journal. "This is a time when we can be part of taking the next step," she added, and confirmed that while Facebook staff haven't staged protests like their counterparts at Google, sexual harassment has been a growing topic of discussion at the company.

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8 November 2018

Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy, however does not address all demands by workers

Author: Kate Conger & Daisuke Wakabayashi, The New York Times

"Google Overhauls Sexual Misconduct Policy After Employee Walkout" Nov 8

Google [will] end its practice of forced arbitration for claims of sexual harassment or assault, after more than 20,000 employees staged a walkout to protest how the internet company handles cases of sexual misconduct. In an email to staff on Thursday, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, said he was altering the sexual harassment policies because “as C.E.O., I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making the changes we need to improve...“[w]e will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims,” he added. Mr. Pichai also said Google would overhaul its reporting process for harassment and assault, provide more transparency to employees about incidents reported to the company and dock employees in their performance reviews if they do not complete sexual harassment training. 

The company did not address some other demands by workers, including that it make its internal report on harassment public and put an employee representative on the board. It did not include temporary workers, vendors and contractors in the changes. Google Walkout For Real Change, the organizers behind the employee walkout, said that although they were encouraged by the changes, the company did not go far enough in addressing systemic racism and other forms of discrimination.

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1 November 2018

Google empoyees stage walkout over handling of sexual misconduct by executives

Author: Jason Abbruzzese, Alex Holmes, Didi Martinez & David Ingram, NBC News

Employees in Google offices around the world staged a walkout to protest the company's handling of senior executives accused of sexual misconduct. A report by The New York Times [had] found [that] two senior Google executives were paid tens of millions of dollars in exit packages despite being accused of sexual misconduct. A third senior executive named... had been allowed to stay at the company but resigned on Tuesday. A Twitter account, @GoogleWalkout, said that employees were demanding five changes: an end to forced arbitration on cases of harassment and discrimination; a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity; a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report; a new process for reporting sexual misconduct; and elevating the company's chief diversity officer to report to the company's CEO. Elissa Brown, a Google employee in New York, said she was surprised by how many staffers participated in the walkout and believed the company was listening."I think they’re taking it very seriously and recognizing that this is a problem to be addressed," Brown said."I don’t think it’s unique to Google at all, unfortunately," she [continued].

Sundar Pichai, Google's chief executive...supported the employees' protest. "[e]arlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate," Pichai said in an email. "[e]mployees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action."

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