Shareholder alleges Google execs covered up sex harassment, assault
- Google parent company Alphabet has been sued by James Allen, one of its shareholders, over its alleged "active and direct participation in a multi-year scheme to cover up sexual assault and harassment at Alphabet," according to a filing with the California Superior Court in San Mateo surfaced via Axios (Martin v. Page, et al. No. 19-CIV-00164 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Jan. 10, 2018)).
- Allen, who said he has held Google stock since 2009, claimed in the nearly 200-page document that Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, among other Google personnel, knew about sexual harassment by company executives but did not fire them. Allen referred specifically to allegations against Android creator Andy Rubin, Google's ex-senior Vice President Amit Signhal and Alphabet's Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer David C. Drummond.
- Rubin, the subject of an October 2018 New York Times investigation into sexual misconduct by executives at Google, was allowed to resign and given a $90 million "'exit package,'" the suit said. Singhal, accused of sexual harassment, "was paid millions in severance," Allen claimed. The suit alleged Drummond, after disclosing an extramarital affair with his subordinate at Google, still received millions of dollars in company stock options, equity awards and other payments.
The news is just the latest development in Google's workplace drama following a year of discrimination lawsuits, internal documentation of harassment, firings over said harassment and a global employee walkout. But Allen's suit may also be an indicator that backlash against large tech companies, more than a year after the #MeToo movement began, is far from over.
In an internal email surfaced by media outlets in October, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Vice President of People Operations Eileen Naughton said the company had fired 48 employees in a two-year period over sexual harassment allegations, including 13 senior managers, and that none had received exit packages or other agreements. This followed reporting on both Rubin and Drummond and preceded the walkout.
The group of employees who participated in the employee walkout listed multiple demands pertaining to the handling of harassment and misconduct at the company. Among these, employees sought an end to arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, a publicly disclosed report on sexual harassment transparency, and a clear process for reporting sexual misconduct. It's noteworthy that all of these demands reflected larger issues faced by employers across industries in the fallout of high-profile harassment, discrimination and misconduct allegations — not just at Google.
The walkout has already had an impact at the company, with Google reportedly making changes to its disability accommodation policy in response to criticism. But the employee movement states on its social platforms that many problems need fixing, including the company's arrangements with contingent workers.
On the harassment front, Google is currently facing a second, separate shareholder lawsuit also filed this week alleging similar violations, Wired reports. In a statement to Wired, an attorney for Rubin claimed the Allen lawsuit mischaracterized her client's exit from Google, saying Rubin left "voluntarily" without a mention of harassment complaints during the negotiation process for his severance.
Despite Google's assertion that it did not offer the sort of exit packages mentioned in the lawsuit to previously fired employees, a poll conducted by anonymous employee chat platform Blind showed one-third of tech workers think their employers offer generous severance packages to employees accused of sexual misconduct. Nearly 70% of Google employees in that poll responded in the affirmative, the highest share of all companies represented.
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