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Google apologises for past handling of harassment, brings change

09 November 2018

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a memo sent to employees on Thursday that the company will revise its sexual harassment policy after last week's mass walkout by workers, who were protesting what they said was the tech giant's mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives.

"Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognise that choice should be up to you", Mr Pichai wrote.

(He does not address discrimination claims.) The company will also begin providing more detailed information about the process and outcomes in sexual harassment investigations.

"This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so", Pichai said while detailing the comprehensive action plan to address the demands of the Google employees.

Google will also publicly share its policies on harassment, discrimination, retaliations, standards of conduct and workplace concerns.

Google will also be expanding its Investigations Report to include a count of "substantiated or partially substantiated" claims over time, as well as trends, disciplinary actions, and substantiation percentages.

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.

"But the issues that contributed to the walkout at Google - the company's controversial work with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence, its apparent willingness to build a censored search engine for China, and above all its handling of sexual harassment accusations against senior managers - proved too large for any one worker to confront alone, even if that worker made mid-six figures", he continued. "We've always been a vanguard company, so if we don't lead the way, nobody else will". A New York Times report spurred the protests after it revealed that Google gave a $90-million exit package to a top executive in 2014 after he was accused of sexual harassment.

Staff will also face performance review penalties if they fail to complete sexual harassment training.

It will be up to team leaders to take steps to curb excessive drinking among their teams, Google said, noting that further actions will be taken if problems persist.

Some 20,000 Google employees and contractors participated in the protest in 50 cities around the world, according to organisers.

Most notably, it did not comment on calls for Google's board to have an employee representative, and for the company's chief diversity officer to report directly to the chief executive.

When a complaint goes into arbitration, an employee waives their right to sue.

Google apologises for past handling of harassment, brings change