The Chief Executive of Google, Sundar Pichai, said that the company will review its sexual harassment policies, responding to some of the demands of employees who have organized historic strikes around the world.
In an email to Thursday's staff, Pichai said that Google would end forced arbitration for requests for unfair sexual behavior, renew the investigation process, share data on harassment claims and results, and provide new support systems for people who come forward. The announcement is a remarkable achievement for employees who have organized about 20,000 workers to leave the corporate offices in 50 cities last week.
Some critics, however, stated that the commitments were inadequate, did not address payment disparities and ignored requests to improve the rights of temporary employees and contractors.
The massive protests came after a New York Times investigation revealed that the technology firm paid $ 90 million to a senior executive after ascertaining that the allegations of sexual misconduct against him they were credible. The revelations prompted intense backlash and rekindled concerns about discrimination and abuse in Silicon Valley.
"We recognize that we have not always had everything well in the past and we are sincerely sorry for this", wrote Pichai. "It is clear that we have to make some changes".
Walkout organizers called for an end to forced arbitration, a popular corporate practice that has long allowed human resources departments to push employee complaints into confidential hearings. This system can silence victims with non-disclosure agreements, hide public violations of work and protect serial criminals. The arbitration has been the subject of an in-depth examination since the former Uber engineer Susan Fowler spoke about harassment last year.
Pichai said that Google would now make arbitrage "optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assertions," but noted that employees might still choose to keep their requests confidential. This is a significant change for the company, which at the beginning of this year was pursuing private arbitration in a lawsuit brought by a female software engineer. That plaintiff, Loretta Lee, described a "cultural culture" that, according to her, allowed daily harassment, including "obscene comments, jokes and even physical violence".
Although Microsoft and Uber withdrew from forced arbitration policies in the wake of pressure in the middle of the #MeToo movement, Google was previously resistant to similar reforms. A company lawyer told the March Guardian that the arbitration was efficient and effective, stating, "Arbitration has been used literally for decades."
Pichai also said that Google would reveal trends in investigations and disciplinary actions and would create a "dedicated site" that included "live support" for people with complaints. Google will now also offer "extra care and resources" to employees, including counseling and "career support" and a "support person", added the CEO.
Original requests for abandonment required a "clear, uniform, global process for reporting sexual misconduct in a safe and anonymous manner" and stated that it should include those who are not full-time workers.
The Tech Workers Coalition, a group of union organizers that includes Google employees, has criticized Pichai's message in a statement to the Guardian on Thursday, saying that "employees, suppliers and contractors" continue to lack adequate protection from sexual harassment.
This workforce, which is disproportionately women and people of color, did not receive the e-mail announcement and was excluded from a discussion in the municipality, the coalition said, adding: "This mild deliberation proves the caste system deployed by Google, which fails to protect its workers and our colleagues For a company that loves to innovate, it is surprising to see such a lack of vision to treat all of its workforce with basic dignity. "
The coalition also criticized Pichai for ignoring the removal request to appoint an employee representative on the company's board of directors.
Pichai's e-mail also did not mention of wage discrimination, which is a rampant problem for women across Google, according to an ongoing lawsuit and US union investigators. The organizers of the excursion had asked for "the commitment to end wage injustice and opportunities"
Google previously said to close the gender pay gap, a position that challenges action of class.
Google remains predominantly white, Asian and masculine. In leadership positions, 2% of employees are black, 1.8% are Latino and 25.5% are women, according to company data.
Questioned on temporary workers, a spokesman underlined Pichai's statement that Google investigates "all issues in which a complaint is filed by a TVC against an employee". A "code of conduct" also requires Google suppliers to "demonstrate a commitment to identify, measure and improve a culture of diversity and inclusion through all aspects of workplace management," reads the statement.