Tech

Google ends mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases

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Enlarge / Organizers lead a march through the Google campus.Cyrus Farivar

Just a week after thousands of Google employees worldwide protested the companys inadequate response to sexual harassment, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company would agree to the first of the organizers demands: ending mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases.

Pichai released a public memo in which he said that arbitration, a quasi-legal private dispute resolution process that often favors corporations over individuals, would now be "optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims."

"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 recognize that choice should be up to you," he wrote.

The company also said in a longer document that it would be changing the way it conducts internal investigations, noting that there would now be 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."

Notably, Google also said that "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."

Protestors also asked for four other changes, which appear to not have been implemented yet:

  1. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
  2. A publicly disclosed sexual-harassment transparency report.
  3. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
  4. Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. Appoint an employee representative to the board.

In December 2017, Microsoft announced that it would end forced arbitration, but few if any other major tech firms have followed suit.

Meredith Whittaker, one of the Google protest's organizers, acknowledged this protest victory on Twitter today:

Collective action works. It will continue working. https://t.co/FGDItqWemA

— Meredith Whittaker (@mer__edith) November 8, 2018

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