Google employees around the world walked out of their offices on Thursday to protest how the technology company handles sexual misconduct allegations, prompted by a bombshell New York Times report last week that revealed how Google offered multi-million dollar exit packages to several high-level executives that were accused of sexual misconduct, while keeping quiet about the allegations.
“I’m here protesting against harassment in the workplace to make sure we don’t protect or support those perpetrators of harassment,” a protester told Sky News outside of the Google office in London, where dozens of workers gathered to protest.
According to The Huffington Post, Google’s actions lead to a group of female engineers to organize a protest, and it quickly grew to a massive worldwide event in just mere days.
— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeBBC) November 1, 2018
Google CEO Sundar Pichai had issued apologies over the past week since the report came out, and acknowledged the discontent in an email to employees on Tuesday. Pichai said that the tech giant had fired 48 employees for sexual harassment over the past two years, and none of them received an exit package.
“I am deeply sorry for the past actions and the pain they have caused employees,” Pichai wrote in the email, which was obtained by ABC News. “Larry mentioned this on stage last week, but it bears repeating: if even one person experiences Google the way the New York Times article described, we are not the company we aspire to be,” Pichai added, referencing Larry Page, Google’s former CEO.
Pichai pledged in his email that the company would take a “much harder line on inappropriate behavior.”
This “inappropriate behavior” reportedly includes executive Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software who left Google in 2014.
According to ABC News, Rubin was accused of coercing a female employee into performing oral sex at a hotel in 2013. Google investigated the claim and found it to be credible, and Page asked the executive for his resignation. Rubin was quietly given a $90 million exit package, paid in installments over a four-year period, The Times reported.
Rubin denied the allegations and blasted The Times for its “numerous inaccuracies” and “wild exaggerations” in its report.
“The New York Times story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation. Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room,” Rubin said in a statement on Twitter after the report’s publication.
1/2 The New York Times story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation. Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room. These false allegations are part of a smear campaign
— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 26, 2018
2/2 to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle. Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts.
— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) October 26, 2018
“These false allegations are part of a smear campaign to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle. Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts,” Rubin added.
Rubin was among three executives that the tech giant “protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct,” The Times report read. Two of the executives, including Rubin, were given millions of dollars as they quietly left the company, while a third executive was still employed in a “highly compensated post,” the report said.
In each of the cases, Google “stayed silent about the accusations against the men,” The Times said.
Event organizers had posted a list of five demands for demonstrators to protest around, including greater transparency at Google and to end forced arbitration.
— Google Walkout For Real Change (@GoogleWalkout) November 1, 2018
Demonstrators in New York City held signs that called out sexual misconduct and gender inequality, with some protesters specifically calling out the cushy exit payments.
“Happy to quit for $90 million,” one woman’s sign read. “No sexual harassment required!”
Sam Messing, who works in research at Google, said he was hopeful the protest would create real change, especially when it comes to ending forced arbitration, HuffPost reports.
“I think one of the ways we can be better and more transparent is to end forced arbitration in employment contracts ― at the very least, for cases of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct,” Messing said. “It would enable more transparency and make it easier for people to understand how Google handles claims.”
— Ted (@TedOnPrivacy) November 1, 2018
“As Google workers, we were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power,” organizers said in a press release emailed to ABC News.
“As the recent article and the executive response make clear, these problems go all the way to the top,” the press release continued. “While Google has championed the language of diversity and inclusion, substantive actions to address systemic racism, increase equity, and stop sexual harassment have been few and far between. ENOUGH. Reassuring PR won’t cut it: we need transparency, accountability, and structural change.”
“For every story in the New York Times, there are thousands more, at every level of the company. Many have not been told,” organizers added. “We are part of a growing movement, and we are not going to stand for this anymore.”