Google workers keep up fight on forced arbitration after walkout


Workers protest against Google's handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The organisers of last year’s Google walkout to protest sexual harassment aren’t satisfied with what tech companies are doing to change their policies – and they’re taking those concerns to social media. 

The group launched a campaign on Tuesday, via Twitter and Instagram, pushing to end forced arbitration, which can limit employees legal options in cases of workplace discrimination. Posts on the social media platforms throughout the day will address the impact of forced arbitration on tech workers and share interviews with survivors and experts, the group said. 

“A handful of tech companies attempted to separate harassment from discrimination by making arbitration optional for only individual cases of sexual harassment and assault,” the group End Forced Arbitration wrote in blog post. “The change yielded a win in the headlines, but provided no meaningful gains for worker equity.” 

Thousands of Google employees walked out of offices around the globe in November to protest how the Alphabet Inc unit has handled sexual misconduct by some of its top executives. The movement was sparked by a New York Times report that said Google gave millions of dollars to some executives in secret exit packages after they were accused of sexual misconduct. 

One of the top reform requests the group made was to end the forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, which requires employees to resolve their dispute privately rather than in court. Mandatory arbitration clauses have come under harsh scrutiny as the #metoo movement gathered steam last year. The Google group says forced arbitration affects at least 60 million workers in the U.S. and that ending the practice is the “gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace”. 

After the protests in November, Google changed some policies on sexual misconduct and made arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. It also pledged to provide more information to staff about such investigations and the outcomes, and expand mandatory training on the issue, addressing some of the issues workers asked for in staging the walkout. 

The Google group says that not much has changed in the past two months. Google is still sending out employment offer letters with the old arbitration policy, the group says. Google said it has modified offer letters for new hires to include the change, which is reflected in a new company policy that declares sexual harassment and sexual assault claims aren’t required to go to arbitration. 

Last week, Alphabet’s directors were sued by shareholders for approving a $90 million exit payment to Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile software. The suits, which are the first critiques aimed directly at the Alphabet board, claim it helped cover up Rubin’s alleged misconduct and similar misbehaviour by other executives. – Bloomberg


   

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