Google bows to worker pres­sure on sex­ual mis­con­duct pol­icy

Imperial Valley Press - - LOCAL&REGION - BY MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Tech­nol­ogy Writer

SAN FRAN­CISCO — Google is promis­ing to be more force­ful and open about its han­dling of sex­ual mis­con­duct cases, a week af­ter thou­sands of high-paid engi­neers and oth­ers walked out in protest over its male-dom­i­nated cul­ture.

Google bowed to one of the pro­test­ers’ main de­mands by drop­ping manda­tory ar­bi­tra­tion of all sex­ual mis­con­duct cases.

That will now be op­tional, so work­ers can choose to sue in court and present their case in front of a jury. It mir­rors a change made by ride-hail­ing ser­vice Uber af­ter com­plaints from its fe­male em­ploy­ees prompted an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The probe con­cluded that its rank had been poi­soned by ram­pant sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

“Google’s lead­ers and I have heard your feed­back and have been moved by the sto­ries you’ve shared,” CEO Sun­dar Pichai said in an email to Google em­ploy­ees. “We rec­og­nize that we have not al­ways got­ten ev­ery­thing right in the past and we are sin­cerely sorry for that.

It’s clear we need to make some changes.” Thurs­day’s email was ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Last week, the tech giant’s work­ers left their cu­bi­cles in dozens of of­fices around the world to protest what they con­sider man­age­ment’s lax treat­ment of top ex­ec­u­tives and other male work­ers ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and other mis­con­duct. The protest’s or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated that about 20,000 work­ers par­tic­i­pated.

The re­forms are the lat­est fall­out from a broader so­ci­etal back­lash against men’s ex­ploita­tion of their fe­male sub­or­di­nates in busi­ness, en­ter­tain­ment and pol­i­tics — a move­ment that has spawned the “MeToo” hash­tag as a sign of unity and a call for change.

Google will pro­vide more de­tails about sex­ual mis­con­duct cases in in­ter­nal re­ports avail­able to all em­ploy­ees.

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 coun­sel­ing.

The com­pany is also step­ping up its train­ing aimed at pre­vent­ing mis­con­duct. It’s re­quir­ing all em­ploy­ees to go through the process an­nu­ally in­stead of ev­ery other year. 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 dif­fi­cult to get pro­moted.

But Google didn’t ad­dress pro­test­ers’ de­mand for a com­mit­ment to pay women the same as men do­ing sim­i­lar work.

When pre­vi­ously con­fronted with ac­cu­sa­tions that it short­changes women — made by the U.S. La­bor Depart­ment and in law­suits filed by fe­male em­ploy­ees —Google has main­tained that its com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate be­tween men and women.

The changes didn’t go far enough to sat­isfy Vicki Tardif Hol­land, a Google em­ployee who helped or­ga­nize and spoke at the protests near the com­pany’s Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, of­fice last week.

“While Sun­dar’s mes­sage was en­cour­ag­ing, im­por­tant points around dis­crim­i­na­tion, in­equity and rep­re­sen­ta­tion were not ad­dressed,” Hol­land wrote in an email re­spond­ing to an AP in­quiry.

Nev­er­the­less, em­ploy­ment ex­perts pre­dicted the gen­er­ally pos­i­tive out­come of Google’s mass up­ris­ing is bound to have rip­ple ef­fects across Sil­i­con Val­ley and per­haps the rest of cor­po­rate Amer­ica.

“These things can be con­ta­gious,” said Thomas Kochan, a Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy man­age­ment pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in em­ploy­ment is­sues.

“I would ex­pect to see other pro­fes­sion­als tak­ing ac­tion when they see some­thing wrong.”

Some em­ploy­ers might even pre-emp­tively adopt some of Google’s new poli­cies, given its pres­tige, said Stephanie Creary, who spe­cial­izes in work­place and di­ver­sity is­sues at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Whar­ton School.

“When Google does some­thing, other em­ploy­ers tend to copy it,” she said.

Google got caught in the crosshairs two weeks ago af­ter The New York Times de­tailed al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against the cre­ator of Google’s An­droid soft­ware, Andy Ru­bin. The news­pa­per said Ru­bin re­ceived a $90 mil­lion sev­er­ance pack­age in 2014 af­ter Google con­cluded the ac­cu­sa­tions were cred­i­ble.

Ru­bin has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

AP PHOTO/NOAH BERGER

In this Nov. 1 file photo work­ers protest against Google’s han­dling of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions at the com­pany’s Moun­tain View, head­quar­ters.

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