The Google walkout: What protesters demanded and what they got

Google employees hold up signs at Harry Bridges Plaza during a walkout Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Sa
Google employees hold up signs at Harry Bridges Plaza during a walkout Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in San Francisco. Several thousand Google employees around the world briefly walked off the job Thursday in a protest against what they said is the tech company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives.
(Eric Risberg / AP)
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On Nov. 1, 2018, some 20,000 Google employees walked off the job in protest of the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations, sparking a wave of tech worker protests that’s been gathering force ever since.

Here are the protest organizers’ public demands, and Google’s responses (or non-responses).

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The demand:

An end to forced arbitration for everyone — including temporary workers and contractors — and a right to bring a co-worker into every HR meeting.

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Google’s response:

Making arbitration optional for individual cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In February it became optional for all full-time employees. Google agreed to allow HR companions, but each employee can serve as a companion only twice a year.

When 20,000 Google employees walked out in protest a year ago, it birthed a new era of tech workers banding together to influence their companies’ actions.

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The demand:

A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, provide data on compensation gaps by race, gender and ethnicity, and make those data accessible to all Google and Alphabet employees and contractors.

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Google’s response:

A reiteration of commitment to past diversity objectives, including a promise to consider a diverse candidate slate for roles at the director level or above (with some exceptions). No response to the demand for pay-data transparency.

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The demand:

A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, including: the number of harassment claims at Google over time and by business area; the types of claims submitted; how many victims and accused have left Google; details of any exit packages granted to executives accused of harassment.

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Google’s response:

An agreement to publish a private, internal sexual harassment report, with the number of substantiated or partially substantiated claims, a breakdown of trends and disciplinary actions taken. Also, a promise to publish an annual report detailing, in aggregate, what employees do and do not get fired for.

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The demand:

A clear and globally inclusive process for employees, full-time and contract, to report sexual misconduct anonymously; independence for human resources to relieve the pressure to please senior management by downplaying claims.

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Google’s response:

A promise to look into revamping the process for reporting harassment; to publish its policies on harassment, retaliation and other issues and an internal investigations guide; and to create a team specifically dedicated to handling harassment complaints. Outside firms providing Google with contract workers are required to maintain their own processes for investigating harassment claims.

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The demand:

Elevating the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the chief executive and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. Appointment of an employee representative to the board.

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Google’s response:

No change to the CDO role; no response to the demand for an employee representative on the board.


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Johana Bhuiyan is a business reporter at the Los Angeles Times covering the technology industry with a focus on accountability.