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Google Vows To Overhaul Its Handling Of Sexual Harassment Claims After Thousands Protest

Gizmodo Australia logo Gizmodo Australia 5 days ago Melanie Ehrenkranz

Sundar Pichai wearing sunglasses posing for the camera: Photo: Getty © Photo: Getty Photo: Getty  Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to all employees promising a number of changes to the company’s policies following last week’s massive walkout. Many of these changes addressed the demands made by the walkout organisers, including optional arbitration for sexual harassment and assault claims and an improved reporting process for sexual misconduct.

Other changes Pichai noted in the email include “more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes” at Google and improvements around mandatory sexual harassment training.

Forced arbitration policies require employees to settle disputes behind closed doors. Doing so is not always in the best interest of employees, and these clauses also oftentimes prohibit employees from pursuing a class-action lawsuit. While Google says it will eliminate forced arbitration for individual cases, it has not publicly pledged to eliminate all arbitration clauses—including for cases of discrimination—and that would be a more meaningful step toward eliminating systemic issues within the company.

With these changes, Pichai wrote in the email to employees that the company will bring all of its reporting channels into “one dedicated site” which will include live support.

“We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns—including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person,” Pichai wrote. “And we will offer extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process. This includes extended counselling and career support.”

However, it remains unclear if these changes will impact a huge part of Google’s workforce—its contractors. According to a screenshot of an email obtained by Gizmodo, there will be a town hall meeting today for Google employees and interns only, excluding temps, vendors, and contractors. Pichai’s email only went out to full-time employees, a Google contractor told Gizmodo. “I had to read it in the press rather than directly from the CEO whose company I have worked for this past year,” they said, speaking under the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

It’s reassuring to see Google leadership take the demands and concerns of its workforce seriously, especially after thousands walked out of their offices last week to protest the company’s toxic culture. These changes are meaningful, but they would be more meaningful if they took everyone’s voices into account, not just full-time employees.

Reached by Gizmodo for more information, a Google spokesperson said the company is not sharing anything beyond what’s available in Pichai’s note at this time.

In a statement on the news, a spokesperson for the Tech Workers Coalition said Google’s policy changes fail “to protect its workers and our colleagues.”

“Sundar ignored the demand for a worker to be represented on the board and TVCs continue to have no adequate protections from sexual harassment, who make up over half the google workforce and are disproportionately women and people of colour. TVCs didn’t receive this email this morning, and have been excluded from the townhall. This deliberate sleight demonstrates the caste-like system deployed by Google, which fails to protect its workers and our colleagues. For a company that likes to innovate, it’s striking to see such a lack of vision for treating all of their workforce with basic dignity. We take inspiration from all who work at google to keep fighting to build worker power.”

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