When Google changed the wording of its internal process for granting disability accommodation late last week, employee Cathy Fitzpatrick took it as proof that you can effect change by speaking out.
In the past year, the tech industry generally and Google employees in particular have shown an unusually high level of labor organizing, with employees sounding off about multiple workplace issues, including diversity and controversial company business contracts. Google made changes to its sexual harassment and misconduct policies after employees staged massive walkouts earlier this month (though the company ignored several of the organizers' demands like adding an employee representative to Alphabet's board).
Fitzpatrick's complaint had to do with Google's policy around providing special accommodation for employees with disabilities, like providing workspace adjustments for someone with an injury or tailored communication resources for an autistic person. She says Google's policy appeared to require employees with disabilities to provide medical documentation before it would discuss accommodation.
She says that an anonymous internal mailing list for employees experiencing mental illness was rife with complaints about Google's process, and that one co-worker waited seven months to request accommodation because the documentation requirement was intimidating.
Fitzpatrick first brought up her issues with the process internally about a year ago, but the company wouldn't budge. So Fitzpatrick posted a long thread on Twitter laying out why she thought the process violated state and federal law.
Google softened its language about the process on its internal site soon after Fitzpatrick complained publicly. Instead of beginning with "Discuss your workplace barriers with your medical provider," the revised site begins with "Where appropriate, we may ask you to provide information about your condition from a third party (e.g., your medical provider)...."