On November 1, over 20,000 Google employees walked out across the globe to combat the pervasive culture of sexual harassment that has plagued the tech giant for much of its history.
The walkout was inspired by a New York Times article that uncovered how Google has protected sexual abusers, including Andy Rubin.
Rubin, the proclaimed father of Android, was asked to resign from Google in 2014 after an internal investigation confirmed accusations of sexual misconduct with an employee. The terms of his departure, which were initially hidden, included a $90 million severance package that was paid out in monthly increments of $2 million for four years.
The organizers of the walkout have publicly made their demands known in an article published on The Cut. “We demand an end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture,” they said.
In response to many of the protesters, Google executives have said that they have fired 48 employees in the past two years for sexual misconduct, all of which have not gotten severance packages.
However, the silent nature of Google’s arbitration process when handling sexual misconduct is one of the major focuses of the protest. In the past, Google’s company contract required that disputes regarding sexual misconduct or discrimination enter mandatory private arbitration. The arbitration process usually involves settlements being handled behind closed doors that include confidentiality clauses as part of the agreement.
Confidentiality agreements prevent plaintiffs from speaking about their suits against harassers, which can hide secrets behind closed doors. To promote transparency, the protesters also called for a public report on sexual harassment to be released by Google.
The protesters also called for a unified method of reporting sexual misconduct across all of the Google offices and asked for an employee to be elected to the board of directors.
The walkout featured global support from many Google offices, including London and Singapore as well as the Mountain View, California, headquarters. Protesters were holding signs proudly proclaiming, “Time’s up, Tech!”
Since the walkout, Google has responded by saying that they would end the forced arbitration process for sexual harassment cases. However, the demand for adding an employee member to the board was met with resistance. An employee said that Sundar Pichai, Google’s C.E.O., said that the decision to add an employee to the board would be one that the board itself would have to make.
However, the ripples of Google’s decision to end forced arbitration is already being felt throughout Silicon Valley. A week after the protests, Uber and Facebook have also come out saying that they would not continue to force sexual assault victims into arbitration with their predators.
This means that survivors can take their assailants to court.
The change means that tech companies will no longer be able to hide sexual assault cases from the public. The world will be able to see the secrets that tech and media giants have hidden.
The hope is that with the public now watching the tech industry, more women will be empowered to come forward with sexual assault allegations. The long-standing fear of “I reported, he got promoted” will be cleansed from a culture that has for so long, been dominated by men and their permissive attitudes towards sexual misconduct.
Women are shouting, and Silicon Valley is finally listening. For men, who’ve been allowed to thrive despite their despicable behavior, time is up.