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)

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.