Google apologises for past handling of harassment, brings change

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Google will end its policy of forcing workers to sign away their right to take a sexual harassment case to court, in a win for the 20,000 employees who staged a protest last week over alleged payouts to predatory executives. Will it be enough to quell concerns?

This news, paired with stories about several other men being rewarded for terrible behavior, sparked an internal movement at Google and on November 1, thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their jobs in protest, demanding change.

The tech boss said it had become clear that to live up to the "high bar" set for Google, changes must be made.

"Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns".

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai announced a detailed "action plan", which included making arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.

Sexual harassment training will now be mandatory every year, instead of every two years, and Google says it will be punishing those who do not comply by giving them demerits that will impact annual reviews. But news surfaced in August that the company has been testing a censored version of its Google search product in an attempt to return to China, which is home to 772 million internet users, the biggest online community in the world.

It mirrors a change made by ride-hailing service Uber after complaints from its women employees prompted an internal investigation concluding its rank had been poisoned by rampant sexual harassment.

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Further, Google says it will implement an Investigations Practice Guide that will outline how investigations will be handled and what employees can expect from the process.

Google noted its chief diversity officer would continue to lead monthly discussions with Pichai on topics of diversity and equity. While McDonalds reiterated its commitment to preventing sexual harassment in its restaurants in an email to AP, the union's lawyer claimed that there was no evidence of any change and existing policies were ineffective. They had also called on Alphabet to add an employee to its board and share gender-related pay data, neither of which Pichai addressed.

Google has not been available in China for almost a decade after the company publicly withdrew from the country in protest at censorship and alleged government hacking.

When workers at 50 Google offices worldwide walked off the job last Thursday, they said they were protesting a "culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators".

- A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.

The onus will be on leaders to take appropriate steps to restrict any excessive consumption among their teams, and we will impose more onerous actions if problems persist.