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This article was published on November 1, 2018

Thousands of Google employees walk out to protest harassment, inequality

Thousands of Google employees walk out to protest harassment, inequality
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Google employees today took to the streets in a massive protest. At 11:10 a.m., in every time zone in which the staged walkout took place, about 40 in total, Googlers left their offices and stood with colleagues to demand change.

Rally organizers told The Cut:

All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe. Sadly, the executive team has demonstrated through their lack of meaningful action that our safety is not a priority. We’ve waited for leadership to fix these problems, but have come to this conclusion: no one is going to do it for us. So we are here, standing together, protecting and supporting each other. We demand an end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture.

The group also listed several demands, including an end to forced arbitration, a commitment to end inequity, publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency, a better process for reporting sexual misconduct, and a promotion for the company’s Chief Diversity Officer, Randy Reyes, who should, according to the group, report directly to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Pichai, in an internal memo, said he was aware of the activities planned, and supported the protestors. The note, obtained first by Axios states support for the “anger and disappointment” felt by Googlers, and commits to taking “a much harder line” on inappropriate behavior. Pichai adds that he’s considering all feedback and looking for ways to “turn these ideas into action.”

The latest statement follows a similar one last week, after a bombshell New York Times report about sexual misconduct at the company. In that memo, Pichai admitted the company had a sexual harassment problem, and that it has fired 48 people over the last two years, including 13 “senior managers and above.” None received an exit package.

The Times’ report shed light on former Android lead Andy Rubin’s departure from Google, alleging a $90 million exit package despite finding the sexual misconduct allegations against him credible. Rubin denied the claims.

Richard DeVaul, another high-level Google employee named in the report, resigned on Tuesday. DeVaul didn’t deny the allegations, but offered an apology for an “error of judgement.” His trouble stemmed from reports he informed a female engineer, Star Simpson, that he and his wife were polyamorous — in an open marriage — during a job interview. He then asked her to attend Burning Man.

Simpson accepted, attending the event with her mother. Once there, DeVaul asked her to remove her shirt and offered a back rub. She refused, but allowed him to rub her neck instead. “I didn’t have the spine or backbone to shut that down as a 24-year-old,” Simpson, now 30, told reporters.

Simpson was told weeks later that she didn’t get the job. She wasn’t offered an explanation as to why.

Credit: Briana Wallace
credit: Briana Wallace (@BrianaWallace)

In 2015, another employee, Amit Singhal, a senior Vice President in charge of search, exited after an employee accused him of groping her at an off-site event attended by dozens of colleagues. Google found the claim credible, but didn’t fire Singhal. They did, however, accept his resignation and offered millions as part of an exit package.

Rubin’s case though, takes the cake. Initially it was reported that the Android lead was being investigated for a 2011 relationship with a woman who did not report to him, according to team members at the time. His trouble stemmed from the pair’s failure to report the relationship, a consensual one by all accounts, to Google’s human resources department despite rules requiring this disclosure.

According to team members, Rubin also dated other women at the company while married to his now ex-wife, Rie.

In a civil suit filed earlier this month by Ms. Rubin, she claimed he had had numerous “owner relationships” with other women during their marriage, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. “You will be happy being taken care of,” Rubin wrote in a 2015 email. “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”

According to Celie O’Neil-Hart, one of the walkout’s organizers, the group has “heard publicly from [Google] leadership that they’ve heard our demands, want to meet with us, and are working toward addressing them.”

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