Google workers plan walkout to protest company’s handling of alleged sexual harassment

This Jan. 3, 2013, file photo shows a Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
This Jan. 3, 2013, file photo shows a Google sign at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Some Google employees are planning to walk out from their jobs because they’re dissatisfied with Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai’s response to a report about the company’s handling of alleged sexual harassment by executives, according to people familiar with the matter.

The workers are planning to leave their desks at the same time and gather. Timing of the protest is still being set, but it may happen on Thursday. The organizers have a list of requests for the company to consider. They declined to specify the demands, but one of the people said the requests aim to help anyone who might be affected by sexual harassment or power dynamics at work. The people asked not to be identified discussing a private matter.

More than 200 Google engineers are participating, according to BuzzFeed, which reported the plans earlier on Monday. A Google spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


Pichai tried to reassure employees on Friday after the New York Times reported the company paid a $90-million exit package to Android chief Andy Rubin after a worker accused him of coercing her into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013. Rubin called the report a smear campaign and tweeted that he “never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room.” The newspaper said other executives also received lenient treatment after misconduct.

The Times story was widely discussed within the company. Employees are upset, taking the claims seriously and expressing support for victims who are named, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Another Google employee said they had not yet seen evidence that Google has changed the way it deals with alleged executive misconduct.

Google has updated its policy to require all vice presidents and senior vice presidents to disclose any relationship with a co-worker regardless of reporting line or presence of conflict, Pichai and vice president of people operations Eileen Naughton wrote in an email to staff on Thursday. They also said the company has terminated 48 people in the last two years for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above.

“We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action,” they added.