Google changes process for reporting harassment and discrimination

Tech giant announces more support for victims, following employee backlash

Google HQ

Google has announced a set of changes to how employees can report harassment and discrimination allegations.

The new processes follow last year's mass walkout of employees over the way the tech giant handled sexual harassment cases. Some 20,000 workers walked out in protest last November.

The action was seemingly sparked by an investigation from The New York Times that revealed how Android co-founder Andy Rubin was paid $90 million upon his exit from the company after it learned of a sexual assault allegation against him.

The protesters demanded changes and CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would listen and act upon the feedback. In a blog post released on Thursday, Google's global director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Melonie Parker, said that it had done just that.

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"We won't implement every idea that our employees (or the outside world) raise, but we always listen, and we consider constructive feedback," she said.

The changes Google has announced include a simplified way employees can raise concerns by bringing multiple channels together on a new dedicated site, with a similar one for temp and vendor workforce coming later in the year. Each employee-related misconduct investigation will be published internally.

For the individuals, it's expanding a support person program where staff can bring a colleague to harassment and discrimination investigations and adding a care program while they undergo investigations. There will also be clearer guidelines on what to expect from these investigations.

This issue has dogged Google for almost a year, particularly due to the way it has handled the situation. During the walkout in November, the company said it supported the workers, but it actually tried to squash the protest by asking the US government to limit protection for activist workers.

It has also been reported, by two of the walkout's organisers, that Google tried to punish the activists. In an internal email, published by Wired, the two employees accused the tech giant of retaliating against several of the organisers. Employee Claire Stapleton said she had been demoted from her position as a marketing manager since the protests.

"My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I'm not sick," she wrote.

"Only after I hired a lawyer and had her contact Google did management conduct an investigation and walked back my demotion, at least on paper. While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day."

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