3 min read

Last week, 20,000 Google employees along with Temps, Vendors, and Contractors walked out to protest the discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment that they encountered at Google’s workplace. This global walkout by Google workers was a response to the New York times report on Google published last month, shielding senior executives accused of sexual misconduct.

Yesterday, Google addressed these demands in a note written by Sundar Pichai to their employees. He admits that they have “not always gotten everything right in the past” and they are “sincerely sorry”  for the same. This supposedly ‘comprehensive’ plan will provide more transparency into how employees raise concerns and how Google will handle them.

Here are some of the major changes that caught our attention:

  1. Following suite after Uber and Microsoft, Google has eliminated forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment.
  2. Fostering a more transparent nature in reporting a sexual harassment case, employees can now be accompanied with support persons to the meetings with HR.
  3. Google is planning to update and expand their mandatory sexual harassment training. They will now be conducting these annually instead of once in two years. If an employee fails to complete his/her training, they will receive a one-rating dock in the employees performance review system. This applies to senior management as well where they could be downgraded from ‘exceeds expectation’ to ‘meets expectation’.
  4. They will turn increase focus towards diversity, equity and inclusion in 2019, through hiring, progression and retention, in order to create a more inclusive culture for everyone.
  5. Google found that one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints is that the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol (~20% of cases).
    Stating the policy again, the plan mentions that excessive consumption of alcohol is not permitted when an employee is at work, performing Google business, or attending a Google-related event, whether onsite or offsite. Going forward, all leaders at the company will be expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged. They will be expected to follow the two-drink rule.

Although the plan is a step towards making workplace conditions stable, it does leave out some of the more inherent concerns related to structural changes as stated by the organizers of the Google Walkout. For example, the structural inequity that separates ‘full time’ employees from contract workers. Contract workers make up more than half of Google’s workforce, and perform essential roles across the company. However, they receive few of the benefits associated with tech company employment. They are also largely women, people of color, immigrants, and people from working class backgrounds.

“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.”
-Google Walkout Organizer Stephanie Parker

Google’s plan to bring transparency at the workplace looks like a positive step towards improving their workplace culture. It would be interesting to see how the plan works out for Google’s employees, as well as other organizations using this as an example to maintain a peaceful workplace environment for their workers.

You can head over to Medium.com to read the #GoogleWlakout organizers’ response to the update. Head over to Pichai’s blog post for details on the announcement itself.

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