After the global walkout by over 20,000 of its employees last week, Google has apologised for past handling of sexual harassment cases and promised changes at the company to make it a safer workplace for all.
“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a note to employees on Thursday.
The Google employees walked out in protest alleging sexual harassment at the workplace and improper handling of the cases reported against top executives.
Pichai said, “Over the past few weeks Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared…It’s clear we need to make some changes.”
He promised more transparency on how Google handles harassment allegations, and said the company would double down on its commitment to be a “representative, equitable, and respectful workplace”.
The Google CEO announced some key changes including making arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.
“Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you,” he said.
Pichai added that Google would provide more “granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report”.
Google claims to be revamping the manner it handles and looks into the concerns of its employees in three ways.
“We’re overhauling our reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site and including live support. We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns—including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person. And we will offer extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process. This includes extended counseling and career support,” Pichai said in the note.
He also said the company would update and expand the mandatory sexual harassment training. From now on, Pichai said, an employee would receive a “one-rating dock” in his or her performance review system on not completing the training.
Google’s chief diversity officer would continue to provide monthly progress updates to Pichai and his leadership team.
The new policy changes meet most of the demands put forth by Google protesters, barring the one seeking a place for an employee representative on the company’s board.
At the massive protests staged last week, the organisers had called for more transparency in handling sexual harassment, employee empowerment, and inequality over pay and work opportunities.
The global walkout was reported from Google’s offices in Europe, North America and Asia, including countries such as Britain, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Google’s headquarters in Mountain View in northern California.
(With agency inputs)