After over 20,000 of its employees and contractors decided to walk out of offices last week in protest against workplace policies, Google has decided to take another look at them. The company has announced that a spate of policy changes is on its way, including a revamp of the way claims associated with sexual harassment are handled.
For one, arbitration will become entirely optional and will be available for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. This will also the victims to bring in lawsuits against the perpetrators. Google will also be ensuring that all of its employees complete mandatory sexual harassment training, by giving it weight in performance reviews.
Speaking about the impending policy change, Google Sundar Pichai said:
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 change.
Google’s Chief Policy Officer will also be holding monthly meetings with Pichai to tackle the issues. The company has also decided to make public its harassment, discrimination and retaliation policies. The company is also planning to bring in a system that will “strongly discourage” excessive alcohol consumption, as 20 percent of harassment claims involved intoxication/inebriation as one of the key factors.
Interestingly, Pichai’s statement comes days after he took a rather strong stance against the protestors. Clearly, hindsight prevailed. Meanwhile, this only addresses two of the five demands that the protestors put forward. Some of the demands which were ignored include adding an employee to the board and sharing gender-related pay data with everyone.
Speaking about Google’s response to some of the issues, protest organizer and employee Stephanie Parker said:
They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top. We demand a truly equitable culture.
The protests came after a New York Times report, which revealed the $90 million package which Google allegedly provided to a top executive, after his departure with the company post harassment complaints.