Google employees staged a global walkout last week, demanding that management improve its treatment of women, specifically regarding sexual-harassment allegations. The walkout was sparked by a New York Times investigation reporting that Google gave Android creator Andy Rubin $90 million when he left the company after being being accused of sexual misconduct.
CEO Sundar Pichai later revealed that 48 employees had been fired in the past two years over similar misconduct. Later that week, the director of Google parent company Alphabet’s X division, Richard DeVaul, who was also accused of sexual misconduct in the Times report, resigned.
Today (Nov. 8), Pichai, who expressed support for the walkout last week, sent a memo to all Google employees outlining changes to the how the company will handle misconduct allegations. Pichai’s memo—while a summary, not an action plan, as Buzzfeed reporter Caroline O’Donovan notes on Twitter—addresses a number of the walkout leaders’ demands, notably including the end to mandatory arbitration at Google.
As Quartz has previously reported, mandatory arbitration (a measure most Americans agree too, often unknowingly, when they sign employment contracts) bars employees from taking their harassment allegations to open court. Instead, they must bring their case to private, company-sponsored arbitration, in which they have a far lower chance of winning. Per Pichai’s memo, arbitration will now be optional in the case of sexual-harassment allegations.
Importantly, as O’Donovan points out, Pichai’s memo does not guarantee Google’s updated policies will apply to temporary employees, vendors, and contractors. Protections for those workers were among the protestors’ top demands, given that nearly half of Google’s workforce are not full-time employees.
Here’s the full text of the memo (also linked to in this blog post written by Pichai):
It’s clear that to live up to the high bar we set for Google, we need to make some changes. Going forward, we will provide more transparency into how you raise concerns and how we handle them. We will provide better care and support to people who raise concerns. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace.
Today, we’re announcing a number of actions to achieve these things.
Arbitration We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy), but, we recognize that the choice should be up to you.
Investigations Report We will create a new section in our Investigations Report focused on sexual harassment to show the number of substantiated or partially substantiated concerns over time, by function. It will also discuss trends, disciplinary actions taken, and substantiation percentages. We’ll also summarize, in this annual report, the types of behavior we do and do not terminate employees for.
Publicly visible workplace policies and processes We will publicly share our policy on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, Standards of Conduct & Workplace Concerns, as well as our processes, and channels for raising and investigating concerns.
Investigations Practice Guide We’ll commit to implementing & publishing internally an Investigations Practice Guide, outlining expectations for how concerns are handled within Google. This Guide will clearly outline what Googlers can expect during the investigation process and/or how their concerns will be handled. We’ll seek input from Googlers who have participated in the investigations process before finalizing the Guide. We’ll commit to reviewing the Guide annually and updating it as required.
Extra care We will create better care services around investigations to support those who have raised concerns. These opt-in care services will include extended counseling and EAP [Employee Assistance Program] support, check-ins, support for accommodations and leaves, etc.
Bring a colleague We’ll establish a global process that will allow Googlers to be accompanied by a companion during an HR investigation, or when raising/reporting any harassment or discrimination concerns to HR. We’ll start with a Q4 pilot of sexual harassment concerns to learn from, and scale this to all types of harassment and discrimination concerns in Q1.
Specialty team We will create a specialty team of advisors on the Employee Relations team to look into all sexual harassment and discrimination concerns.
Revamping the process We’ll commit to taking a fresh look at each of our channels for reporting concerns, and the processes for looking into them, to ensure claims are handled with empathy and care, and that individuals bringing concerns forward are heard. We’ll launch this in Q1 2019.
T-V-Cs T-V-Cs [Temporary, Vendor and Contract employees] are an important part of our extended community. We investigate all matters in which a complaint is made by a T-V-C against an employee, and require that suppliers do the same for complaints against T-V-Cs and report back to us on any complaints. In addition, we recently broadened the reach of our Supplier Code of Conduct and require Google suppliers to “demonstrate a commitment to identify, measure, and improve a culture of diversity and inclusion through all aspects of workplace management.” This contractual agreement also holds suppliers accountable for maintaining “a program that provides workers with a means to report grievances anonymously and without fear of retaliation, unless prohibited by law.” We’ll continue routinely reviewing our suppliers for adherence with these provisions. For those suppliers that employ Google’s TVCs, we’ll consider the findings from these reviews in evaluating whether to continue our supplier relationships.
Workplace: We will accelerate our commitment to a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace.
Company OKR We will recommit to our company-wide OKR [Objectives and Key Results] around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone.
• Diverse candidate slate: For new or vacated positions at the Director level or above, we’ll commit to having a diverse slate of candidates on the interview short list. Note, there may be some limited exceptions (eg, highly specialized roles or unique skills) that can be approved only at the joint discretion of the VP-level hiring manager and the VP of Staffing and Operations.
Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Google’s Chief Diversity Officer will continue to lead monthly discussions with Google Leads and the CEO on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as workplace health. In addition, the CDO provides recommendations directly to the Board of Directors through the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee on diversity, equity, inclusion and culture matters.
Excessive alcohol Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse. But one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking (~20% of cases). Our policy is clear: Excessive consumption of alcohol is not permitted when you are at work, performing Google business, or attending a Google-related event, whether onsite or offsite. Going forward, all leaders at the company—Directors, VPs and SVPs—will be expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged. For example, many teams have already put two-drink limits in place for events. Others use drink ticket systems. The onus will be on leaders to take appropriate steps to restrict any excessive consumption among their teams, and we will impose more onerous actions if problems persist.
Real consequences for not doing training Starting next year, all employees will complete mandatory sexual harassment training annually (currently required every two years). Employees out of compliance with any required training will be docked one rating in the year end Perf cycle (e.g., Exceeds Expectations will be moved to Consistently Meets Expectations). This applies to all Googlers including our senior leaders.
Noogler training We’ll enhance our Noogler [New Google employee] training to specifically focus on educating Nooglers on our Harassment, Discrimination and Workplace Conduct policies, and share more about our processes for reporting concerns, and resources available to support employees, setting a strong expectation from Day 1. We’ll also incorporate this information into our Google TVC Onboarding program, providing a uniform opportunity for our TVCs to understand policies, processes, and resources available to them.