There seems to be a running battle between Google and its employees for quite some time now. A group of Google employees announced yesterday that they’re launching a public awareness social media campaign from 9 AM to 6 PM EST today. The group, called, ‘Googlers for ending forced arbitration’ aims to educate people about the forced arbitration policy via Instagram and Twitter where they will also share their experiences about the same with the world.
Tune into @endforcedarb tomorrow Tue, Jan 15 from 9am – 6pm EST to learn about how forced arbitration denies 60 million Americans access to their civil rights. https://t.co/WswZ7qMADa #EndForcedArbitration #googlewalkout #MeToo #TimesUp #DumpForcedArbitration
— End Forced Arbitration (@endforcedarb) January 14, 2019
The group has researched their fellow tech employees, academic institutions, labour attorneys, advocacy groups, etc as well as the contracts of around 30 major tech companies, as a part of its efforts. They also published a post on Medium, yesterday, stating that “ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace”.
According to National Association of Consumer Advocates, “In forced arbitration, a company requires a consumer or employee to submit any dispute that may arise to binding arbitration as a condition of employment or buying a product or service. The employee or consumer is required to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal”.
No court is going to invalidate Google’s forced arbitration provisions based on a press release. It makes for nice headlines but until Google actually amends its employment agreements, current and future workers could still be forced into arbitration for sexual harassment claims. https://t.co/ofrBQoAwhK
— O'Dwyer & Bernstien (@ODwyerLaw) January 14, 2019
Demands for more transparency around Google’s sexual assault policies seems to have become a bone of contention for Google. For instance, two shareholders, namely, James Martin and two other pension funds sued Alphabet’s board members, last week, for protecting the top execs accused of sexual harassment. The lawsuit, which seeks major changes to Google’s corporate governance, also urges for more clarity surrounding Google’s policies. Similarly, Liz Fong Jones, developer advocate at Google Cloud platform, revealed earlier this month, that she’s planning to leave the firm due to Google showing lack of leadership in case of the demands made by employees during the Google walkout.
It was back in November 2018 when over 20,000 Google employees organized Google “walkout for real change” and walked out of their offices along with temps and contractors to protest against the discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment encountered within Google. Google employees had made five demands as part of the walkout, including ending forced arbitration for all employees (including temps) in cases of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.
Now, although Google announced that it’s ending its forced Arbitration policy as a response to the walkout (a move that was soon followed by Facebook) back in November, Google employees are not convinced. They argue that the announcement only made up for strong headlines, and did not actually do enough for the employees. The employees mentioned that there were “no meaningful gains for worker equity … nor any actual change in employee contracts or future offer letters (as of this publication, we have confirmed Google is still sending out offer letters with the old arbitration policy)”.
Moreover, forced arbitration still exists in Google for cases involving other forms of workplace harassment and discrimination issues that are non-sexual in nature. Google has made the forced arbitration policy optional only for individual cases of sexual assault for full-time employees and still exists for class-action lawsuits and thousands of contractors who work for the company. Additionally, the employee contracts in the US still have the arbitration waiver in effect.
“Our leadership team responded to our five original demands with a handful of partial policy changes. The other ‘changes’ they announced simply re-stated our current, ineffective practices or introduced extraneous measures that are irrelevant to bringing equity to the workplace”, mentions the group in a blog post on Medium.