Google workers plan worldwide walkout over handling of sexual harassment cases

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

Stephen Shankland/Techhnews

Google employees are planning to walk out of the company’s offices worldwide on Thursday, in protest of the search giant’s handling of sexual harassment claims, according to a source familiar with the plans. 

The walkout will begin around 11 a.m. local time in Tokyo. Other offices will begin at that time in their respective timezones, according to The New York Times.

Google employees also have a list of demands for Google co-founder Larry Page and CEO Sundar Pichai, including a call to end private arbitration in cases of sexual assault and harassment, the Times said. Private arbitration means people waive their right to sue, and it sometimes requires confidentiality agreements. 

The walkout comes one week after the Times published a bombshell investigative report on sexual harassment at Google. According to the Times’ report, Android creator Andy Rubin was accused by a worker of having coerced her to perform oral sex on him in a hotel room in 2013. Google reportedly found the allegation to be credible. The company then asked for his resignation, gave him an exit package of $90 million, and didn’t mention the misconduct in his departure announcement, according to the Times.

In response to the article, Rubin tweeted, “These false allegations are part of a smear campaign.” He also said, “the story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation.”

The Times story has roiled Google and stirred up anger among its workforce. Last week, Page, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, apologized to employees at the company’s meeting. Rich DeVaul, a director at X, Alphabet’s lab that spawns experimental projects like driverless cars and smart contact lenses, resigned earlier this week. DeVaul was accused of harassment, including misconduct with a Google job candidate, according to the Times. In a statement to the paper, DeVaul apologized for an “error of judgment.”

Though the walkout is in part to protest the decisions of upper management, Google’s leaders are reportedly fine with the demonstration. Pichai said Google’s human resources department would make sure managers across the company were aware of the walkout and that employees had the support they needed, according to a letter to employees published by Axios.

“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Pichai wrote. “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.”

The walkout is just the latest example of Google workers calling out the company over its decisions. A handful of employees have reportedly quit over reports of a project called “Dragonfly,” an effort to build a censored search engine in China. And about 1,000 employees signed an open letter asking the company to be transparent about the project and to create an ethical review process for it that includes rank-and-file employees, not just high-level executives.

Employees have also pushed back against Google’s decision to go after lucrative military contracts. Workers challenged the company’s decision to take part in Project Maven, a Defense Department initiative aimed at developing better AI for the US military. More than 4,000 employees reportedly signed a petition addressed to Pichai demanding the company cancel the project. In June, Google said it wouldn’t renew the Maven contract or pursue similar contracts.

A week later, Pichai released ethical guidelines regarding the company’s development of AI. He said Google wouldn’t create technology that would be used for weapons, but he said Google would still pursue work with the military.

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