Read Google CEO's response to employee sexual harassment protests 

  • Google has revamped its sexual harassment policies in the wake of employee protests.
  • Last Thursday, 20,000 Google employees walked out of their offices around the world in response to a bombshell New York Times report that detailed how the company shielded executives accused of sexual misconduct.
  • The company has responded to many of the protest organizers' demands, though it will not add an employee representative to Alphabet's board.
Google employees hold signs during a walkout to protest how the tech giant handled sexual misconduct in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. 
Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Google employees hold signs during a walkout to protest how the tech giant handled sexual misconduct in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a memo to employees Thursday detailing changes to its sexual harassment and misconduct policies in the wake of massive protests last week.

More than 20,000 Google employees walked out of their offices Thursday following a bombshell New York Times report that detailed how the company has shielded executives accused of sexual misconduct, with organizers demanding concrete changes like a new system for reporting abuse and an employee representative on the company's board.

"This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so," Pichai wrote in his memo.

Google leadership also held a town-hall style meeting with employees following the publication of Pichai's memo on Thursday.

While the policy changes Pichai outlined fulfill many of the protesters' requirements, they do not include adding an employee representative to Alphabet's board or elevating the chief diversity officer to report directly to the CEO.

Google's plan includes providing more transparency around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes as part of its annual "Investigations Report," revamping its reporting channels for incidents of misconduct, updating and expanding its sexual harassment training and making arbitration optional for sexual harassment claims.

Organizers of the protests had specifically demanded Google put an end to its policy of forced arbitration for sexual misconduct allegations — a practice that prevents employees from taking cases to court and is generally criticized for suppressing victims' stories. Pichai's memo says that while Google "never required confidentiality," employees with harassment or assault claims can now choose whether or not to go through the arbitration process.

Organizers of Google's protests were also deliberate about including contract workers in their original demands. Google said in an additional document detailing changes that it will routinely review contractor and temp worker suppliers to see if they adhere to agreements around the handling of employee complaints. However, the Tech Workers Coalition, which launched a retaliation hotline for Google employees who participated in last week's protest, says that the new policies don't do enough to protect those temp, vendor and contract workers (TVCs).

"TVCs didn't receive this email this morning, and have been excluded from the town-hall," a spokesperson said. "This deliberate slight demonstrates the caste-like system deployed by Google, which fails to protect its workers and our colleagues."

Bloomberg reported that during the first quarter of the year Alphabet had more TVCs than direct employees (of which it had 85,050 at the time). These workers typically make less, pay more for benefits, and lack the job security of direct employees.

The protest's organizers also released a statement saying that while Google made progress towards addressing their demands, they would "not let up" until all of them were met.

"We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are Black and Brown women," employee Stephanie Parker said in that statement.

Here's Pichai's note in its entirety:

Hi everyone,

At Google we try hard to build a workplace that supports our employees and empowers them to do their best work. As CEO, I take this responsibility very seriously and I'm committed to making the changes we need to improve. Over the past few weeks Google's leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you've shared.

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.

Today, we're announcing a comprehensive action plan to make progress. It's detailed hereand I encourage everyone to read it. Here are some of the key changes:

  • We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you.
  • We will provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report.
  • We're revamping the way we handle and look into your concerns in three ways: We're overhauling our reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site and including live support. We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns—including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person. And we will offer extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process. This includes extended counseling and career support,
  • We will update and expand our mandatory sexual harassment training. From now on if you don't complete your training, you'll receive a one-rating dock in Perf.
  • We will recommit to our company-wide OKR around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone. Our Chief Diversity Officer will continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team.

I hope you'll take the time to read the full range of actions we're announcing today.

Thank you all for the feedback you've shared with us. This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so. We often hear from Googlers that the best part of working here is other Googlers. 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.

-Sundar

Google also expanded on Pichai's note with more details about the changes: