Lessons from the Google Employee Walkout

The Federal Supreme Court.

As a result of the Google employee walkout in November, the company has agreed to make changes in its processing of sexual harassment claims. Like Microsoft, Uber and Lyft, Google agreed to no longer require binding arbitration of harassment claims. This means that victims can go to court where they can get a jury trial. Facebook announced a similar policy the next day. Airbnb and eBay also appeared to follow suit.

Google also agreed to publicize the complaints of harassment it receives, and how it resolves them. Specifically, “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.”

Although the company should be congratulated for what it did do, it did not agree to take any actions that would have precluded it from giving a $90 million payout to an executive forced to leave the company.

One of the organizers of the walkout, Stephanie Parker, according to the New York Times, “described succinctly the issue of who really paid the price for his sins. At the walkout, she said she asked the crowd: ‘Where do you think Google got that $90 million they used to pay out Andy Rubin? They got it from every time you worked late. Every promotion you didn’t get because they said there’s not enough budget, you have to wait. It’s from every contractor who came to work sick because they have no paid time off. These are conscious decisions that the company is making, and abusers are getting rich off of our hard work. It’s just not fair, and they completely know what they’re doing.’”

Sexual harassment is not an isolated problem. At Fair Measures, we call our harassment prevention program Respectful Workplace. It is not intended to stand alone. It should be part of an organization’s commitment to living its values. As long as any person is treated with disrespect—whether through low pay, lack of promotion, denial of benefits, or misclassification as an independent contractor—harassment will be just another symptom of the problem.

What you should do: Work to root out all forms of disrespect in your workplace. Ensure that every leader takes our Managing within the Law program and every employee attends Respectful Workplace.

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2018-12-10T22:11:56+00:00

About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.