- Google fired 48 employees over sexual harassment allegations in the past two years, according to various media reports. In an internal email sent out on Friday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and VP of People Operations Eileen Naughton wrote that those fired included 13 senior managers, and that no manager received "exit packages," or agreements in which the accused is given cash or stock in exchange for leaving without filing a lawsuit.
- The announcement follows The New York Times story that claimed Google paid Android founder Andy Rubin $90 million to leave the company quietly in 2014 after it discovered credible evidence of assault allegations made against him by a former girlfriend, Fortune reported. The memo's purpose was to reassure employees that the company addresses every sexual harassment or misconduct complaint. However, the Times' article documents millions of dollars paid to Rubin and one other executive.
- The email also addressed the matter of an employee's advancement being dependent on an executive's will, Fortune reported. A case in point is the romantic relationship between Jennifer Blakely, a former Google employee, and the company's general counsel, David Drummond. According to Fortune, Blakely claimed that the then-HR head told her she would have to leave her department, reportedly because of the affair. Blakely has since left the company.
Companies as high-profile as Google will attract much attention when claims of misconduct surface. Stories regarding sexual harassment allegations at companies with Google's clout hold weight in the current media landscape, which may be one reason why Google was willing to share the internal memo with members of the press.
On a surface level, employers must be wary of their brand now more than ever — and big headlines about sexual harassment don't do a company any good. Candidates won't ignore the bad press surrounding a company and information on companies is abundantly available online through sites like Glassdoor and kununu. More than 90% of candidates will conduct a cursory online search before they apply for a job, and if they find low ratings, only 34% say they will submit an application.
But harassment allegations could also reveal deeper inequities in how a company manages promotions, raises and hiring at the outset. Bias can sneak in at any point in the employee lifecycle, often at the manager level. That bias is one reason why GoDaddy's former VP of inclusion made a point of checking in on employees that had not yet seen matriculation in case bias was playing a role in why they hadn't yet been promoted. Manager training in general can go a long way in helping manage this issue.
Above all else, HR must take allegations of harassment seriously. All organizations, regardless of their size, must acknowledge every complaint and take the time to thoroughly investigate and administer discipline when warranted.