Google Changes Sexual Harassment Policies in Response to Protestors

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Will it be enough to quell concerns?

After a global walkout by over 20,000 employees last week, Google has apologised for the past handling of sexual harassment cases while promising to bring changes to make the company a safer workplace.

"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. "It's clear we need to make some changes", Google CEO Pichai wrote in the email on Thursday.

Pichai's comments come after the company's controversial attempt to launch a censored search product in China - known as Project Dragonfly - triggered an outcry among employees and U.S. politicians amid an escalating trade war and concerns over freedom of speech.

On Friday, Facebook followed Google's lead and announced to employees that it would be ending its policy that required mandatory arbitration for employee sexual harassment claims. Those who don't comply will be docked one rating in the year-end Perf (Google's performance review system).

Some 150 Google employees participated in the walkout in India.

"Sundar ignored the demand for a worker to be represented on the board and [temps, vendors and contractors (TVCs)] continue to have no adequate protections from sexual harassment, who make up over half the Google workforce and are disproportionately women and people of colour".

Going forward, all leaders at the company - Directors, VPs and SVPs - will be expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged.

Google leadership also held a town-hall style meeting with employees following the publication of Pichai's memo on Thursday, the CNBC reported.

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.

Google is one of the world's most profitable multinational technology companies.

Project Include, an organization that recommends diversity initiatives to tech companies, said on Twitter on Wednesday that without committing to "eliminating wage gaps and Google's focus on just harassment and assault, these [important] changes seem to be just focusing on policies/procedures". The report said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 even though Google concluded the sexual misconduct allegations against him were credible.

"We will impose more onerous actions if problems persist", Google said. The company also said it would publicly release its harassment, discrimination and retaliation policies.

But the group said that, although it "commended" the process, some concerns had been ignored - such as their demand for a employee representative to be put on the board.

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