Google to change policy on sexual harassment

SAN FRANCISCO • Google has outlined changes to its handling of sexual misconduct complaints, hoping to calm outrage that triggered a worldwide walkout of workers last week.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” chief executive Sundar Pichai said in a message to employees, a copy of which was shared with Agence France-Presse. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Arbitration of harassment claims will be optional instead of obligatory, according to Mr Pichai, a move that could end anonymous settlements that fail to identify those accused of harassment.

Arbitration, a common practice among technology companies, largely happens behind closed doors and can involve confidentiality clauses. The practice has come under criticism because it limits workers from speaking out about their experiences.

“Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (for example, personal privacy, predictability of process), but, we recognise that the choice should be up to you,” he said in the memo.

Mr Pichai promised that Google will be more transparent with how concerns are handled, and provide better support and care to those who raise such issues with the company.

A section of an internal “Investigations Report” will focus on sexual harassment to show numbers of substantiated concerns as well as trends and disciplinary actions, according to the California-based company.

He also said Google is consolidating the complaint system and that the process for handling concerns will include providing support and counsellors.

LESS BOOZE

Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse… But, one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking.

GOOGLE, in a released action statement.

Google will update its mandatory sexual harassment training, and require it annually instead of every two years as had been the case.

Google is also putting the onus on team leaders to tighten the tap on booze at company events, on or off campus, to curtail the potential for drunken misbehaviour.

“Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse,” Google said in a released action statement. “But, one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking.”

Google policy already bans excessive consumption of alcohol on the job, while on company business, or at work-related events.

Thousands of Google employees joined a coordinated worldwide walkout a week ago to protest the US tech giant’s handling of sexual harassment.

A massive turnout at the “Googleplex” in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia and spread to Google offices in Europe.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES