Google announced yesterday that it is ending forced arbitration for its full-time employees as well as for the Temps, Vendors, and Contractors (TVCs) for cases of harassment, discrimination or wrongful termination. The changes will go into effect starting March 21 and employees will be able to litigate their past claims. Moreover, Google has also lifted the ban on class action lawsuits for the employees, reports WIRED.
This victory never would have happened if workers hadn't banded together, supported one another, and walked out. Collective action works. Worker power works. This is still just the beginning. #GoogleWalkout #EndForcedArb https://t.co/Csfb0HXr8f
— Google Walkout For Real Change (@GoogleWalkout) February 21, 2019
In the case of contractors, Google has removed forced arbitration from the contracts of those who work directly with the firm. But, outside firms employing contractors are not required to follow the same. Google, however, will notify other firms and ask them to consider the approach and see if it works for them.
Although this is very good news, the group called ‘Googlers for ending forced arbitration’ published a post on Medium stating that the “fight is not over”. They have planned a meeting with legislators in Washington D.C. for the next week, where six members of the group will advocate for an end to forced arbitration for all workers. “We will stand with Senators and House Representatives to introduce multiple bills that end the practice of forced arbitration across all employers. We’re calling on Congress to make this a law to protect everyone”, states the group.
Google promises end to mandatory arbitration for all full-time employees by March 21, 2019 … but we're not stopping there. On Thu, Feb 28th – we will stand with Senators and Representatives to introduce bills to #EndForcedArbitration for ALL workers.https://t.co/8HPVmWqnrd
— End Forced Arbitration (@endforcedarb) February 21, 2019
It was back in November when 20,000 Google employees along with Temps, Vendors, and Contractors walked out to protest the discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment encountered at Google’s workplace. Google had waived forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault claims, as a response to Google walkout (a move that was soon followed by Facebook), but employees were not convinced. Also, the forced arbitration policy was still applicable for contractors, temps, vendors, and was still in effect for other forms of discrimination within the firm.
This was soon followed by Google contractors writing an open letter on Medium to Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google, in December, demanding him to address their demands of better conditions and equal benefits for contractors.
Also, Googlers launched an industry-wide awareness campaign to fight against forced arbitration last month, where they shared information about arbitration on their Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout the day. The employees mentioned in a post on Medium that there were “no meaningful gains for worker equity … nor any actual change in employee contracts or future offer letters”.
The pressure on Google regarding more transparency around its sexual assault policies had been building up for quite a while. For instance, two shareholders, James Martin, and two other pension funds sued Alphabet’s board members, last month, for protecting the top execs accused of sexual harassment. The lawsuit urged for more clarity surrounding Google’s policies. Similarly, Liz Fong Jones, developer advocate at Google Cloud platform, revealed earlier last month, that she was leaving Google due to its lack of leadership in case of the demands made by employees during the Google walkout. Jones also published a post on Medium, last week, where she talked about the ‘grave concerns’ she had related to the strategic decisions made at Google.
“We commend the company in taking this step so that all its workers can access their civil rights through public court. We will officially celebrate when we see these changes reflected in our policy websites and/or employment agreements”, states the end forced arbitration group.
Public reaction to the news is largely positive, with people cheering on Google employees for the victory:
You are making history! Bravo!✌🏼
This should be retroactive for previous employees as well. How many employees were harassed and forced to leave, or terminated, in the past 6 months? How many of them left because of the unmet demands of the walkout itself?
— Vida Vakilotojar (@VidaVakil) February 22, 2019
👏 "Today was a good day. Now keep going." 👏
— Jasmin Tuffaha- $ub$cribe to your local new$ media (@jas_mint) February 21, 2019
Google announced today it will #EndForcedArbitration for current and future employees: "It’s a big win for employee activists who have long demanded the change — but the new policies won’t apply to Google’s temps, vendors, and contractors": https://t.co/xPUjVoIi3q #GoogleWalkout
— Coworker.org (@teamcoworker) February 21, 2019
Thanks to the leadership of 20,000 workers who have been fighting forced arbitration for months, Google will no longer require employees to sign away their rights as a condition of employment. What a win in the fight to #EndForcedArbitrationhttps://t.co/tlpeon7SPv
— Pipeline Parity Project (@PipelineParity) February 21, 2019