On November 1, Google employees located in New York City and throughout the country staged a massive walkout to protest the company's handling of sexual harassment complaints. According to the New York Times, the unprecedented protest came after the newspaper reported that Google “had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to male executives accused of misconduct, while staying silent about the transgressions.” A Google employee who helped organize the New York walkout noted that the Times only reported “a small sampling of the thousands of stories we all have.”
How Google Responded
One week later, on November 8, Google issued a written statement to all of its employees, which detailed its “commitments and actions” in response to the backlash over its approach to sexual harassment in the workplace. According to the statement, “It's clear that to live up to the high bar we set for Google, we need to make some changes.”
More specifically, Google management promised to “accelerate our commitment to a representative, equitable, and representative workplace.” Among other things, the company's new policies include:
- Discouraging excessive alcohol consumption at company-sponsored events. Many tech companies have come under fire for their culture of promoting alcohol use during business hours, as it frequently leads to incidents of sexual harassment. Google admitted this was a problem and said it planned to crack down on excessive alcohol consumption. “Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse,” the company's new policy states, while acknowledging alcohol use was a factor in roughly one out of every five sexual harassment complaints made to Google management. In the future, Google said all senior executives will be required to “create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is discouraged.” The policy suggests a two-drink limit for all company-sponsored events.
- Mandatory sexual harassment training. As of January 2019, New York State law requires all employers to “provide employees with sexual harassment prevention training.” Google's new policy coincides with this mandate and states that any employee who does not complete mandatory training on an annual basis will be “docked one rating” in his or her annual performance evaluation. Google emphasizes this rule will also apply to “our senior leaders.”
- No forced arbitration of sexual harassment complaints. Google and other tech companies have been sharply criticized by politicians and the press for holding employees to mandatory arbitration agreements that allow employers to effectively cover up evidence of sexual harassment. Under its new policy, Google said arbitration will be strictly “optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.”
Contact a New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today
Google's actions are a welcome sign that big business in New York is finally starting to take the epidemic of sexual harassment seriously. But this doesn not mean individual employees can rest easy. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you need to take immediate action. The first step is to contact a qualified New York City employment lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today.