Thousands of Google employees around the world have staged walkouts following the news that the company gave Andy Rubin, ‘the Father of Android’, a $90 million exit package while keeping quiet about a misconduct claim that had been made against him.
According to The New York Times’ report, an employee had accused Rubin of sexual harassment. Google investigated, and concluded that her claim was credible. Larry Page subsequently asked for his resignation, which meant they were able to give him the $90 million exit package. If he had been fired, which they would have had grounds to do, he would have received comparatively little.
Another executive, Richard DeVaul, resigned this week after being accused of sexually harassing a job applicant.
Understandably, many Google employees are upset. The lack of transparency around Rubin’s departure, and the fact that the company gave him such a generous exit package, suggests the company’s approach to handling misconduct allegations needs some work.
Employees across Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States walked out of work on Thursday, with five key demands for their employers: an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, a uniform and globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely, and to elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO.
The group behind the walkout said in a release:
“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. Sadly, this is part of a longstanding pattern, one further amplified by systemic racism. We know this culture well. For every story in the New York Times, there are thousands more, at every level of the company. Most have not been told.”
On Sunday, CEO Sundar Pichai emailed staff apologising for the way the company has handled misconduct allegations in the past. He revealed that 48 people, including 13 managers, had been fired over the past two years as a result of harassment allegations.
In the email, he wrote:
“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel. I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. and, yes, here at Google, too.”
Pichai said in an internal memo that Google’s head of people operations would ensure managers “were aware of the activities planned for Thursday” and that employees would have the “support” they needed.
He also said on stage at a New York Times event on Thursday that “moments like these show we didn’t always get it right”.
It remains to be seen whether or not they’ll get it right next time.