Google, the master of online secrecy, is being forced to deal with a grassroots revolt from within their employee ranks. A new report from TechCrunch revealed that yesterday morning, a group of more than 200 Google engineers successfully organized their global, company-wide “women’s walk” protest against the company’s alleged protection of key executives accused of sexual misconduct, citing four sources familiar with the company’s internal decisions.
The protest, which gained a crowd of thousands, came just a few days after a stunning new investigation conducted by The New York Times revealed that several key executives within Google, many of whom still hold key positions, have been accused of serial sexual harassment against their lower ranking engineers. In 2014, the company reportedly conducted an internal report into the harassment claims made against executives such as Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, who was later given a $90M exit package (paid in $2 million monthly installments), despite the company’s report declaring the allegations of sexual misconduct to be “credible.”
The Times reports his last payment will be cleared next month.
“I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” said Larry Page, Google’s former CEO, thanking Rubin for his work in a public statement following the report’s conclusion. “With Android he created something truly remarkable — with a billion-plus happy users. Thank you.”
The company made no mention of why Rubin was stepping down or the bonus he received for doing so. His recent accuser says her employer pressured her into preforming oral sex on him inside his hotel or facing potential dismissal from Google. Her identity remains anonymous, citing confidential agreements that would punish her if she went public with his potential crime.
Rubin denies all wrong-doing and claims it’s all his ex-wife’s fault.
Google’s employees, however, aren’t buying the excuse.
Yesterday morning, thousands of Google engineers and lower-rank employees, based in cities such as San Francisco and Dublin, participated in a walk out protest against the company’s unethical, protective treatment against potential criminals.
“Personally, I’m furious,” said one Google employee to BuzzFeed News. “I feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behaviour towards women at Google‚ or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin. And it’s a leadership of mostly men making the decisions about what kind of consequences to give, or not give.”
The protestors issued a public platform demanding five key changes:
- An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
- A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
- A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
- Elevate the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the chief executive officer and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. And appoint an employee representative to the board.
The protest was received positively by the employers, though their thoughts on specific policy changes are elusive, to say the least.
“Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward.”
“We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action,” Pichai continued in a letter co-signed with the vice president of people operations Eileen Naughton. “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel. I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. And, yes, here at Google, too.”
The statement later confirmed that as of yesterday, a total of 48 employees had been terminated at the company for sexual harassment in the past two years alone, including 13 senior executives. This means the sexual harassment problem within Google, by the company’s own admission, is a actually larger than just the three accused top executives the sources for the Times investigation revealed earlier this week.
“We are committed to ensuring that Google is a workplace where you can feel safe to do your best work, and where there are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately,” Naughton told the Times. “We investigate and take action, including termination. In recent years, we’ve taken a particularly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority. We’re working hard to keep improving how we handle this type of behaviour.” Obviously Google aren’t working hard enough if Rubin, the top harasser, is still getting his monthly paychecks.
There’s also the problem of the remaining “old guard” executives who continue to occupy these positions of power despite their stories. The Times specifically pointed at company co-founder Sergey Brin, accused of having a relatively consensual extramarital relationship with a lower-level employee. There’s the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development David Drummond, who impregnated a junior employee; and the now former Google X director Richard DeVaul, forced to step down after being accused of sexual harassment that influenced the employment of a prospective hire. It’s unknown which other abusers are being shielded from dismissal or whether men like DeVaul are also receiving exit payments.
These protests follow the revolt against Google’s Project Maven, the multi-million dollar drone program selling artificial intelligence technology for the U.S. foreign policy ventures waged in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, which led to dozens of public resignations and petitions from over 4,000 Google employees calling for a cease to the backroom deal. After facing the intense pressure of their employees, Google announced this contract would end in 2019, leaving room for the #MeToo movement to make gains in forcing the company’s hand to actually punish abusers, or at the very least adopt the practice of due process.
“A company is nothing without its workers. From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners. Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up,” the organizers wrote in New York Magazine. “We share [our stories] in hushed tones to trusted peers, friends, and partners. There are thousands of us, at every level of the company. And we’ve had enough.”