Google out­lines steps to tackle ha­rass­ment

Kuwait Times - - Technology -

SAN FRAN­CISCO: Google re­cently out­lined changes to its han­dling of sex­ual mis­con­duct com­plaints, hop­ing to calm out­rage that trig­gered a world­wide walk­out of work­ers last week. “We rec­og­nize that we have not al­ways got­ten ev­ery­thing right in the past and we are sin­cerely sorry for that,” chief ex­ec­u­tive Sun­dar Pichai said in a mes­sage to em­ploy­ees, a copy of which was shared with AFP. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Ar­bi­tra­tion of ha­rass­ment claims will be op­tional in­stead of oblig­a­tory, ac­cord­ing to Pichai, a move that could end anony­mous set­tle­ments that fail to iden­tify those ac­cused of ha­rass­ment. “Google has never re­quired con­fi­den­tial­ity in the ar­bi­tra­tion process and it still may be the best path for a num­ber of rea­sons (e.g. per­sonal pri­vacy, pre­dictabil­ity of process), but, we rec­og­nize that the choice should be up to you,” he said in the memo.

Pichai promised that Google will be more trans­par­ent with how con­cerns are han­dled, and pro­vide bet­ter sup­port and care to those who raise such is­sues with the com­pany. Google will pro­vide “more gran­u­lar­ity,” re­gard­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions and their out­comes, ac­cord­ing to Pichai. A sec­tion of an in­ter­nal “In­ves­ti­ga­tions Re­port” will fo­cus on sex­ual ha­rass­ment to show num­bers of sub­stan­ti­ated con­cerns as well as trends and dis­ci­plinary ac­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany. He also said Google is con­sol­i­dat­ing the com­plaint sys­tem and that the process for han­dling con­cerns will in­clude pro­vid­ing sup­port peo­ple and coun­selors. Google will up­date its manda­tory sex­ual ha­rass­ment train­ing, and re­quire it an­nu­ally in­stead of ev­ery two years as had been the case.

Less booze Google is also putting the onus on team lead­ers to tighten the tap on booze at com­pany events, on or off cam­pus, to cur­tail the po­ten­tial for drunken mis­be­hav­ior. “Ha­rass­ment is never ac­cept­able and al­co­hol is never an ex­cuse,” Google said in a re­leased ac­tion state­ment. “But, one of the most com­mon fac­tors among the ha­rass­ment com­plaints made to­day at Google is that the per­pe­tra­tor had been drink­ing.” Google pol­icy al­ready bans ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of al­co­hol on the job; while on com­pany busi­ness, or at work-re­lated events.

Some teams at the com­pany have al­ready in­sti­tuted two-drink lim­its at events or use ticket sys­tems, Google said. Google ex­ec­u­tives over­see­ing events will be ex­pected to strongly dis­cour­age ex­ces­sive drink­ing, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, which vowed “oner­ous ac­tions” if prob­lems per­sisted. The com­pany also promised to “recom­mit” to im­prov­ing work­place di­ver­sity through hir­ing, re­ten­tion, and ca­reer ad­vance­ment.’

‘Google­plex’ walk­out Thou­sands of Google em­ploy­ees joined a co­or­di­nated world­wide walk­out a week ago to protest the US tech gi­ant’s han­dling of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. A mas­sive turnout at the “Google­plex” in Sil­i­con Val­ley was the fi­nal stage of a global walk­out that be­gan in Asia and spread to Google of­fices in Eu­rope. Some 20,000 Google em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors par­tic­i­pated in the protest in 50 cities around the world, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers.

Demma Ro­driguez, head of eq­uity en­gi­neer­ing and a seven-year Google em­ployee, said dur­ing the walk­out that it was an im­por­tant part of bring­ing fair­ness to the tech­nol­ogy colos­sus. “We have an as­pi­ra­tion to be the best com­pany in the world,” Ro­driguez said. “But we also have goals as a com­pany and we can’t de­cide we are go­ing to miss those.” The protest took shape af­ter Google said it had fired 48 em­ploy­ees in the past two years — in­clud­ing 13 se­nior ex­ec­u­tives — as a re­sult of al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

De­mands posted by or­ga­niz­ers in­cluded an end to forced ar­bi­tra­tion in cases of ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion for all cur­rent and fu­ture em­ploy­ees, along with a right for ev­ery Google worker to bring a co-worker, rep­re­sen­ta­tive, or sup­porter when fil­ing a ha­rass­ment claim. In a state­ment or­ga­niz­ers com­mended Google for the re­sponse, but said more changes are needed.

“We de­mand a truly eq­ui­table cul­ture, and Google lead­er­ship can achieve this by putting em­ployee rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the board and giv­ing full rights and pro­tec­tions to con­tract work­ers,” or­ga­nizer Stephanie Parker said in the state­ment. Along with sex­ual ha­rass­ment, Google needs to ad­dress racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion that in­cludes in­equity in pay and pro­mo­tions, or­ga­niz­ers said. “They all have the same root cause, which is a con­cen­tra­tion of power and a lack of ac­count­abil­ity at the top,” Parker said. — AFP

PARIS: These three pho­tos show from top: the Google logo dis­played on a screen and re­flected on a tablet. — AFP

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