Google CEO highlights corporate changes following walkouts

This time last week, Google employees held massive walkouts across the country to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment in the wake of a damning New York Times piece. This morning, CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees about the events that was also shared via the company’s blog.

“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” the executive says in the letter. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.” The memo follows another recent letter, in which Pichai noted the termination of 48 employees for sexual harassment over the past two years.

This latest letter also makes note of a private “action plan.” While not spelled out in its entirety, Pichai breaks down a  handful of policy changes, including  mandatory training for employees and the ways in which the company will handle sexual harassment claims going forward. Here are the bullet points:

  • We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you.
  • We will provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report.
  • We’re revamping the way we handle and look into your concerns in three ways: We’re overhauling our reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site and including live support. We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns—including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person. And we will offer extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process. This includes extended counseling and career support,
  • We will update and expand our mandatory sexual harassment training. From now on if you don’t complete your training, you’ll receive a one-rating dock in Perf (editor’s note: Perf is our performance review system).
  • We will recommit to our company-wide OKR around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone. Our Chief Diversity Officer will continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team.

Of course, all of this only arrives in the wake of both a serious piece highlighting disturbing complaints about former employees, along with a very high-profile walkout on the part of Google employees. It never bodes well for a company’s underlying culture when these sorts of actions are required to induce a fundamental change.

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