Will Google Do The Right Thing?
The #MeToo movement has come to Google. Will the company listen?
Last week, the New York Times ran a shocking report about how Google handled a case of alleged sexual harassment on the part of its then-star designer, Andy Rubin, who led the company’s Android phone development. Upon hearing what it concluded to be credible evidence of Rubin sexually assaulting a fellow employee, Google fired him in 2014, giving him a $90 million exit package, which incensed many people who saw it as Google rewarding Rubin while staying silent on the sexual harassment (Rubin has denied all the allegations).
“When Google covers up harassment and passes the trash, it contributes to an environment where people don’t feel safe reporting misconduct,” said Google engineer Liz Fong-Jones to The New York Times. “They suspect that nothing will happen or, worse, that the men will be paid and the women will be pushed aside.”
Google had responded to the article, noting that the company had fired over 48 people in the last two years for sexual misconduct, with none of them receiving exit packages. Earlier this week, Axio found that Rich DeVaul, a director at X, the moonshot unit of Alphabet, also was let go because of alleged harassment, though no severance package was given to him.
This was not enough to assuage employee fears, however. On Thursday, many Google employees worldwide staged a walk-out to protest — at the time of this writing over 1,000 employees had walked out in the company’s U.S. east coast and European offices alone. They called for an end to forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and discrimination, better practices for reporting harassment and misconduct, as well as a commitment to ending inequities in pay and opportunities.
Will Google listen? Company CEO Sundar Pichai sent an internal email Tuesday supporting the walk-out, vowing to improve the way Google handles claims of sexual misconduct. Whether the company will do the tougher work of meeting these demands is another issue entirely. The IT world is watching.