Google workers plan walkout over company's handling of sexual harassment
Editor's note: An update on the walkout and how the five demands Googlers were making of the company reflect on employment law generally can be found here.
- A group of 200 Google employees, including women engineers, are planning a walkout Thursday to protest how the company dealt with a former executive charged with sexual misconduct, BuzzFeed reported. The planned walkout is in response to last week's New York Times article about Google paying Android creator Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package in 2014, along with payments to other executives.
- Employees participating in the "women's walkout" say they want more transparency and ethics from Google, the report says. They presented management with petitions demanding greater employee oversight into management's product decisions. Some have even quit their jobs to protest Google’s decisions. According to BuzzFeed, a growing number of employees are adding their names to a spreadsheet, refusing to take part in screening interviews for prospective hires at Google in protest.
- Frustration with management has been growing recently among Google employees, said BuzzFeed. In a series of employee-directed actions against the company, the walkout is the latest. Employees also protested following news that Google helped the Pentagon develop drone warfare technology in an initiative called Project Maven. Other workers protested a censored search project, code-name Dragonfly, that Google was constructing for China. BuzzFeed said Google has promised not to renew the Pentagon contract, Project Maven, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai said recently that the company will continue exploring opportunities with China.
In response to the Times article, Google released an internal memo discussing the firing of 48 employees for sexual harassment during the past two years. In an internal email leaked to the press, the company explained the firings to workers, claiming that none of the 13 terminated executives received exit packages.
Google has faced quite a bit of ire from its employees over the years. The build up of headlines — incidences of sexual misconduct, projects Maven and Dragonfly, and employees' earlier charges of pay inequality — doesn't bode well for the organization's brand (though it so far remains on top of most best-place-to-work surveys). The question is whether a company's brand can withstand serial notoriety. Sexual harassment allegations, employees' poor treatment and criminal or unethical behavior can damage an organization's brand, as well as scare off would-be hires, who are routinely bypassing employers with poor online ratings.
Google's recent troubles also hit on a third-rail of employee management right now: whether companies should take a stand on public issues. Increasingly, employees want their employers to not only share their values but speak out on those values in clear, actionable ways, according to Glassdoor. Employees seemingly will not tolerate employers that say one thing in their value list and then do another.