Google bends to protestors' demands after sexual harassment 'walkout'

Sundar Pichai

After years as a free-wheeling, fast-growing startup, Google is trying to adjust to the responsibilities and realities of being one of the world's most powerful companies.

The reforms are the latest fallout from a broader backlash against men's exploitation of their female subordinates.

Pichai also said Google will provide more details around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes, as well as improving processes used to handle such concerns, including the ability for its employees to be accompanied by a support person. The breakdowns will include the number of cases that were substantiated within various company departments and list the types of punishment imposed, including firings, pay cuts and mandated counselling. Another request is to have an employee representative on Google's board.

Google will end its policy of forcing workers to sign away their right to take a sexual harassment case to court, in a win for the 20,000 employees who staged a protest last week over alleged payouts to predatory executives. Those who fall behind in their training, including top executives, will be dinged in annual performance reviews, leaving a blemish that could lower their pay and make it more hard to get promoted.

Google isn't addressing another one of the protesters' grievance because it believes it doesn't have merit.

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Protest organizers said Google publicly champions diversity and inclusion but doesn't do enough to put words into action.

Notably, Google also said that "going forward, all leaders at the company-Directors, VPs and SVPs-will be expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged".

He added that Google's workforce had been shocked by a New York Times report on sexual assault allegations surrounding high-profile workers at the tech firm. The report said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 even though Google concluded the sexual misconduct allegations against him were credible.

Arbitration will now be optional, chief executive Sundar Pichai said in an all-staff email.

Rubin derided the Times story article as inaccurate and denied the allegations in a tweet. Women account for 31 percent of Google's employees worldwide, and it's lower for leadership roles.

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