It is #TimesUp for sexual misconduct and harassment at the workplace. And Google witnessed this first hand. With 20,000 employees staging a walkout out of their offices across the world, including in India last week, the company was forced to change its sexual harassment and misconduct policies.
The protests came in the wake of an article by New York Times which revealed how the company had shielded executives accused of sexual harassment. The article claimed that Google had paid $90 million to Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’ while keeping quiet about a misconduct claim against him.
This news brought a lot of backlash on the company and had employees stage a walkout. Given these developments, Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google announced a comprehensive “action plan” to deal with the sexual harassment in the company, with a sound misconduct policy in place.
In an email sent to Google employees, and released to the public, Pichai states, “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 changes. Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We’ll give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace.”
Pichai announced some key changes, the most notable one being that Google won’t force its employees making sexual harassment claims into private arbitration. From here on it will be a matter of choice for the employees.
The company is also revamping the means in which it addresses concerns. It’s overhauling the reporting channels and moving it to a dedicated site with live support. The company will provide Googlers with a support person, and during the process, it will offer extra support, care and resources to the employee. All employees will have to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training and those who miss it will be flagged in the performance review.
In his note, Pichai also shared that the company will “provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report.”
One of the biggest contributions of the #MeToo movement has been putting the spotlight back on workplace safety. In the last few weeks, India woke up to witness how predators at the workplace have thrived for decades without fear.
As more #MeToo stories emerge, it is pertinent for companies to look at their own culture to ensure that workplaces are what they claim to be- safe, inclusive and fair.
Something that even Sundar emphasised in his note to the employees, “Even in difficult times, we are encouraged by the commitment of our colleagues to create a better workplace. That’s come through very strongly over the past few weeks.”
Here’s hoping that Google will walk the talk.