Google changes policies on sexual misconduct after protests

Google changes policies on sexual misconduct after protests

Mr. Pichai's actions respond to a couple of the five major requests made by employees during last week's protests. The company will also provide more support to employees who report, including counseling and allowing them to bring a companion with them during HR investigations.

The changes are a step forward, but have some serious shortcomings, said Freada Kapor Klein, a partner at Kapor Capital and longtime advocate for diversity in tech. The rule change also doesn't appear to extend to workplace racism, which women of color are just as likely to experience as sexism, Kapor Klein said.

"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. Some states, including California, this year passed laws that limit the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases.

Last December, Microsoft Corp. announced that it had eliminated mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual harassment claims among its employees and was also advocating for federal legislation to do the same across the workforce.

It followed a series of revelations about sexual harassment and misconduct at the company, including a $90m payout to Android inventor Andy Rubin after he had left Google, despite what the firm considered a credible claim of sexual misconduct against him - a claim he denies. On Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai - who was publicly supportive of the walkout, likely because reacting any other way would be a bad PR look for an already tarnished organization - announced that the company has updated its sexual harassment policies. They had called on Alphabet to add an employee to its board and share gender-related pay data, neither of which Mr. Pichai addressed.

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Arbitration will now be optional, chief executive Sundar Pichai said in an all-staff email.

Workers' advocates aren't convinced. "It's clear we need to make some changes", Pichai stated in his emailed memo.

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

In addition, the company will expect its leaders to foster environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is "strongly" discouraged. Google employees walked out of the company's offices around the world on November 1 in protest of the search giant's handling of sexual harassment claims - specifically at the executive level.

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