Thousands walk out of Google in protest of company’s handing of sexual assault

Emily Sheahan

After worldwide protests, Google has announced it will end its practice of forced arbitration.

Over 20,000 Google employees participated in a walkout across 50 cities worldwide, including Dublin on November 1st, in protest of the company’s history of protecting executives accused of sexual assault.

The demonstration came after the New York Times recently reported that Google had paid Andy Rubin an exit package of $90 million in 2014. Rubin was one of three executives protected over the past decade after accusations of sexual assault were made against him.

Subsequently, Google said that it had fired 48 people in the last two years for sexual harassment, none of whom had received an exit package.

Rubin denied allegations that he coerced a woman into having sex in his hotel room. “These false allegations are part of a smear campaign by my ex-wife to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle,” he said. The woman who made the complaint against Rubin worked in the division that he ran, Google Android.

Google then announced on November 8th that it would overturn its sexual misconduct policy and end its practice of forced arbitration, addressing the first demand made by the organisers. “We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims,” said the CEO of Google Sundar Pichai in an email to staff.

The company, however, did not meet all the demands listed. They have not announced any movements towards appointing an Employee Representative to the board or publicly disclosing internal reports on sexual harassment.  

Other demands included “a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously”, and “a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity”.

“We walked out because tech industry business, as usual, is failing us. Google paying $90M to Andy Rubin is one example among thousands, which speak to a company where abuse of power, systemic racism, and unaccountable decision-making are the norm,” said the founder of Google’s Open Research Group, Meredith Whittaker.

The organisers of the demonstration, Google Walkout For Real Change, said that “sexual harassment is the symptom, not the cause. If we want to end sexual harassment in the workplace, we must fix these structural imbalances of power”.

The movement also called for Google to address the issue of systemic racism within the company. Organiser Stephanie Parker said that the issues “all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top”.

“The process by which we build a truly equitable culture must centre the voices of black women, immigrants, and people of color — those who too often pay the most in the face of these intersecting problems,” said organiser Demma Rodriguez.

Google Walkout For Real Change said this is the beginning of their work, not the end.

The demonstration brough people to recount personal stories. One woman said that HR silenced her when she made a complaint against a coworker. “I was told that Google was keeping silence for me, and thus I had to keep my silence, away from the press, away from my coworkers, I need to be silent. No more.”


Emily Sheahan

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