Google rewrites sexual harassment policy after staff protests

Watch Google employees stage global protests

Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after thousands of high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture.

"We demand a truly equitable culture", organizer Stephanie Parker wrote in response to Pichai's November 8 email, "and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are Black and Brown women".

Mandatory sexual harassment training will also be updated and expanded with those not completing training receiving a docking of their performance rating.

"All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe", they wrote in an essay published on the Cut last week.

The protest took shape after Google said it had fired 48 employees in the past two years - including 13 senior executives - as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct. "It's clear we need to make some changes", Pichai noted. It will offer extended counseling, support for accommodations and leaves, and it will put together a team of advisors on the Employee Relations team focused on sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

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However, Pichai's email said the company will "provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report". Those who fall behind in their training, including top executives, will be dinged in their annual performance reviews, leaving a blemish that could lower their pay and make it more hard to get promoted.

The reforms are the latest fallout from a broader societal backlash against men's exploitation of their women subordinates in business, entertainment and politics - a movement that has spawned the "MeToo" hashtag as a sign of unity and a call for change.

But Google didn't address protesters' demand for a commitment to pay women the same as men doing similar work. It does not, as the organizers asked, create a position for a worker representative on the Board of Directors. Google says it will annually release a report on offenses that were and were not fireable.

The protest came a week after a New York Times story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about creator of its Android software, Andy Rubin. The newspaper said Rubin received a $90-million severance package in 2014 after Google concluded the accusations were credible.

In response to the article, Rubin tweeted that the "story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation". Now, Google, one of the world's most powerful and visible companies, could become a model for how to fix what's broken in tech culture - if it delivers on its promises.

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