Google staff around the world have staged walk-outs in protest against the tech-giant’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.
Employees from more than 20 different offices including Tokyo, Singapore, London, Dublin, Zurich, Berlin, Chicago and New York walked off the job on Friday morning (AEST), in protest against Google’s mitigating strategy in handling sexual misconduct claims.
The staff say Google has done little to address “systematic racism, inequality and sexual harassment” at its workplaces.
The walkout comes a week after The New York Times revealed Google offered staff accused of harassment accusations a hefty payoff or allowed them to keep their job.
In once instance, Android leader Andy Rubin reportedly received a US$90 million ($126 million) exit package after Google found the sexual misconduct claims against him were credible.
In a Twitter post, Mr Rubin denied the accusations were true and described the severance package as a being a “wild exaggeration”.
The Times’ story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct against other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the same Google-affiliated lab that created projects such as self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons.
Mr DeVaul remained at the X lab after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him a several years ago, but he resigned on Tuesday without severance, Google confirmed on Wednesday.
Organisers of the Google protest, billed Walkout For Real Change, demanded greater transparency from the company and an end to gender pay and opportunity inequality.
— Mike Leonard (@spanks004) November 1, 2018
“While Google has championed the language of diversity and inclusion, substantive actions to address systemic racism, increase equity, and stop sexual harassment have been few and far between,” a circulated employee statement read.
“ENOUGH. Reassuring PR won’t cut it: we need transparency, accountability, and structural change.”
Google chief executive Sundar Pichai apologised for the company’s “past actions” in an email sent to employees on Tuesday.
“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Ms Pichai wrote.
“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 email didn’t mention the reported incidents involving Mr Rubin, Mr DeVaul or anyone else, but Ms Pichai didn’t dispute anything in the Times story.
— TiffanyLee.gif (@tiffanycanfly) November 1, 2018
In an email last week, Ms Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google’s executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure workers that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Rubin’s departure four years ago.
Both disclosed that Google had fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for sexual harassment in recent years without giving any of them severance packages.
But Thursday’s walkout could signal that a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent Alphabet remained unconvinced the company is doing enough to adhere to Alphabet’s own edict urging all employees to “do the right thing”.