Following a global walkout by over 20,000 Google employees last week, the company has apologised for its past handling of sexual harassment cases. The company also announced a series of sweeping changes to handle sexual harassment complaints, CNBC has reported.
In an email to employees on Thursday (8 November), CEO Sundar Pichai apologised for how Google mishandled a series of sexual harassment complaints against key company executives.
“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes,” Pichai wrote in the email, which was also published on the company’s website.
“Over the past few weeks, Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared…It’s clear we need to make some changes,” Pichai said.
Promising more transparency on how it handles harassment allegations, Pichai said Google will double down on its commitment to be a “representative, equitable, and respectful workplace”.
A wave of anger erupted among Google employees after New York Times published a report on how their employer paid millions of dollars in exit packages to male executives including members of senior leadership accused of sexual harassment, while maintaining silence about the misconduct.
On 1 November, thousands of Google employees across the world staged a series of walkouts in protest at claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism.
The report detailed out a $90 million payout in 2014 to Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android phone. Rubin was accused of coercing a female subordinate, with whom he was in a consensual relationship, into performing oral sex on him.
Among the sweeping changes announced by the Google CEO includes making arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Currently, many companies including Google force new hires to sign a form in which they agree to resolve all legal disputes outside the court system, through a process known as private arbitration.
Pichai added that Google will also overhaul its reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site and also include live support. ”We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns, including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person,” Pichai said. Google also said that it will offer its employees extra care and resources during and after the whole process.