- In response to backlash regarding alleged retaliation against employees who attempted to organize workers, Google's Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker wrote an open letter to employees updating them on a few recently announced initiatives to improve transparency and accountability within the company. Parker announced a new internal website for employee complaints, and said a similar site will be available for temporary workers and vendors in June. The company has also publicly shared its workplace policies around these issues.
- Parker said Google has internally published an Investigations Report summarizing employee-related misconduct involving discrimination, harassment and retaliation, with an expanded section on sexual harassment investigations. After a four-month trial, Google will expand its Support Person Program, which allows workers to bring a colleague to harassment and discrimination investigations, she said.
- Among these harassment-related developments, Google has also launched an Investigations Care Program to provide workers with better care during and after an investigation and an Investigations Practice Guide explaining how Employee Relations handles these concerns, Parker said.
This open letter outlining these updates follows a walkout in November by 20,000 employees over Google's handling of sexual harassment and its workplace policies around equity and transparency (as well as the retaliation claims). Parker wrote that the commitments Google made in November to address worker concerns aren't just about launching new programs and changing policies, but also about establishing a "workplace filled with dignity and respect."
Worker complaints are a common pain point for employers, especially as HR managers feel they are responsible for sorting through the real complaints from the "people who cry wolf," attendees noted at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management's Employment Law and Legislative Conference. But with a standardized process, a willingness to actively listen and intention to resolve issues brought forth, HR can make the investigation process "a good thing," experts told attendees.
To avoid further future issues, employers may need to train managers in the laws covering sexual harassment on the federal, state and local levels; discrimination; and retaliation to avoid unlawful conduct and the risk of liability. Managers should be told to thank employees for coming forward and assure them that their complaints will be taken seriously, Jonathan Segal, a partner and managing principal at Duane Morris, suggested.