Culture&Arts

Google limits alcohol at work in sexual-harassment crackdown

Google limits alcohol at work in sexual-harassment crackdown

In response to a recent employee walkout protesting how Google has handled sexual harassment cases, CEO Sundar Pichai released new policies for employees on Thursday.

Among the measures announced are the introduction of optional arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.

"Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (eg personal privacy, predictability of process), but, we recognise that the choice should be up to you", he said in the memo.

In the email, Pichai says that he takes the role of CEO seriously and that, going forward, Google will "provide more transparency on how we handle concerns".

Employees who participated in the walkout were demanding an end to forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, a commitment to end pay inequity, publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency reports and a clear policy for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. The protesters demanded that women be paid the same as men for doing similar work, something that Google has steadfastly maintained that it has been doing for years.

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Pichai's disclosure came after over 20,000 Google employees worldwide walked out last week in protest of sexual harassment at the company and its improper handling of sexual misbehaviour allegations against top executives.

Google will also be expanding its Investigations Report to include a count of "substantiated or partially substantiated" claims over time, as well as trends, disciplinary actions, and substantiation percentages. "Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", the section (correctly) states at the outset, before delving into details on teams using drink tickets to limit alcohol consumption. But one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking (~20% of cases).

The walkout, which took place on November 1, saw approximately 20,000 employees leave their Google offices around the globe at 11:10 a.m. local time.

Google executives overseeing events will be expected to strongly discourage excessive drinking, according to the company, which vowed "onerous actions" if problems persisted. Google is also promising "extra care and resources" for Googlers with complaints, "during and after the process", such as extended counseling and career support. It pledged to provide more information to staff about such investigations and the outcomes, and expand mandatory training on the issue.

"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", organiser Stephanie Parker said in the statement. Throughout the protests several female employees shared their stories while working at Google, claiming that their allegations had largely fell on deaf ears.

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