Google re­forms sex­ual mis­con­duct poli­cies

Daily Press - - Business - By Michael Liedtke As­so­ci­ated Press

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

CEO Sun­dar Pichai spelled out the con­ces­sions in an email sent Thurs­day to Google em­ploy­ees. The note of con­tri­tion came a week af­ter the tech gi­ant’s work­ers left their cu­bi­cles in dozens of of­fices around the world to protest man­age­ment’s treat­ment of top ex­ec­u­tives and other male work­ers ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and other mis­con­duct in­volv­ing men. The protest’s or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated that about 20,000 work­ers par­tic­i­pated in the walk­out.

“Google’s lead­ers and I have heard your feed­back and have been moved by the sto­ries you’ve shared,” Pichai wrote in his email. “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.” Pichai’s email was ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Google bowed to one of the protesters’ main de­mands by drop­ping manda­tory arbitration of all sex­ual mis­con­duct cases. That will now be op­tional un­der the new poli­cies. It mir­rors a change made by ride-hail­ing ser­vice Uber af­ter the com­plaints of its women em­ploy­ees prompted an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­clud­ing its rank had been poi­soned by ram­pant sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Google will also 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, 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 their an­nual per­for­mance re­views, leav­ing a blem­ish that could lower their pay and make it more dif­fi­cult to get pro­moted.

The re­forms are the lat­est fall­out from a broader so­ci­etal back­lash against men’s ex­ploita­tion of their women 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 got caught in the crosshairs two weeks ago af­ter The New York Times de­tailed al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct about 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.

Like its Sil­i­con Val­ley peers, Google has al­ready openly ac­knowl­edged that its work­force is too heav­ily con­cen­trated with white and Asian men, es­pe­cially in the high­est pay­ing ex­ec­u­tive and com­puter pro­gram­ming jobs. Women ac­count for 31 per­cent of Google’s em­ploy­ees world­wide, and it’s lower for lead­er­ship roles.

Crit­ics be­lieve that gen­der im­bal­ance as cre­ated a “brogam­mer” cul­ture akin to a col­lege fra­ter­nity house that treats women as sex ob­jects. As part of its on­go­ing ef­forts, Google will now re­quire at least one woman or a non-Asian eth­nic mi­nor­ity to be in­cluded on the list of can­di­dates for ex­ec­u­tive jobs.

Google didn’t ad­dress an­other one of the protesters’ griev­ances seek­ing a com­mit­ment to pay women the same as men do­ing sim­i­lar work. When pre­vi­ously con­fronted with ac­cu­sa­tions that it short­changes women by the U.S. La­bor De­part­ment and in law­suits filed by fe­male em­ploy­ees, Google has stead­fastly main­tained that its com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate be­tween men and women.


Google em­ploy­ees walked out Nov. 1 to protest the com­pany’s han­dling of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions.

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