Published: Sun, November 11, 2018
Money | By Arnold Ball

Google ends forced arbitration for sexual misconduct cases

Google ends forced arbitration for sexual misconduct cases

Will it be enough to quell concerns?

Alphabet Inc.'s Google said Thursday it would make changes to how it handles sexual harassment claims, a week after thousands of its employees around the world walked off their jobs to protest its response to such issues.

"We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that", Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post.

While the company ceded to some of the changes demanded, Pichai did not address the demand to have an employee as one of the board representatives.

Those who do report cases will also be better cared for, Mr Pichai promised, with time off granted as well as long-term counselling paid for by the company. Those who don't comply will be docked one rating in the year-end Perf (Google's performance review system).

Google has also asked team leaders to check on the alcohol consumption at company events. Women account for 31 per cent of Google's employees worldwide, and it's lower for leadership roles.

It mirrors a change made by ride-hailing service Uber after complaints from its women employees prompted an internal investigation concluding its rank had been poisoned by rampant sexual harassment.

Google is joining a wave of companies that will no longer force its employees making sexual harassment claims into private arbitration. That's happening externally, with increased scrutiny by regulators and politicians, and internally with reports and rising complaints about Google's permissive culture when it comes to executive conduct and relationships with co-workers.

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Sabrina Geremia says she feels the walkout, which included workers in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo, is a "difficult episode", but that she hopes it will become a "watermark" for the industry.

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.

The global walkout spread to many countries in Europe, North America and Asia, including Britain, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Google's headquarters in Mountain View in northern California.

With 80,050 employess (Q1 2018), Google has a market cap of over $748 billion (€656 billion).

In an unsigned statement from organizers, protesters called for an end to forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, a practice that requires employees to give up their right to sue and often includes confidentiality agreements.

"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", organiser and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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