Google employees around the world are walking out to demand change

On Thursday, thousands of Google employees and contractors around the world are staging office walkouts at 11:10 a.m. to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims. The walkout follows a New York Times report, which said that Google had paid male executives millions of dollars in exit packages after sexual harassment claims were made against them. Android creator Andy Rubin, for example, reportedly received a $90 million exit package even after the company concluded that a sexual harassment claim made against him was credible.

The report sparked employees’ outrage that Google executives’ apologies have been unable to quell. Google has already been accused of mistreating women before. The Department of Labor is investigating a claim that the tech giant has underpaid women. In an internal email to staff, CEO Sundar Pichai said that at least 48 people have been fired for sexual harassment without receiving a payout.

It is in the midst of this polarizing climate that employees said they had had enough. “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,” organizers of the Google walkout said in a statement. “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.”

Google staff in New York City, Georgia, Massachusetts, Zurich, London, Tokyo, Singapore and Berlin are among the offices taking part.

An end to forced arbitration among demands being made

In addition to the walkouts, the organizers of the Google walkout have published a list of demands on social media accounts.

1) An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
2) A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
3) A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
4) A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
5) Elevate the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. In addition, appoint an employee representative to the board.

Arbitration agreements are a common contract clause within tech companies that prevent employees from banding together to take on companies directly in a class-action lawsuit. Instead of taking cases to court, employees handle their cases internally with their employer. This is good for the company. Investigations into the practice have found that when cases go into private arbitration, companies overwhelmingly win those cases.

In an internal email, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that he and the company’s management “were aware of the activities planned for Thursday” and that he would ensure that employees would have the “support” they needed.