“Not OK Google”: Employees Stand Up to IT Giant

A mass protest against harassment and inequality in Google’s offices involved thousands of workers worldwide. What actually happened and why wasn’t this situation a regular walkout? The Names explains.

Nearly 17,000 Google employees around the world gathered together to protest a company policy, which justifies sexual harassment and other unacceptable violations. Mass walkouts took place in 40 cities where the company’s holds global offices. Such cities as New York, San Francisco, London, and Dublin became centers of the protest. Google workers were demanding that the company change the corporate culture that fostered assaults, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

A New York Times report inflamed the protest, claiming that the company knew about accusations of inappropriate behavior at the workplaces of some senior managers, but offered at least one of the accused a huge exit package for his silence. There are other unconfirmed cases, but the main character of the article is Andy Rubin, the “Father of Android”. The NY Times stated that Google paid Rubin $90 million, despite his allegedly known history of sexual assault against female employees. However, during the walkout, workers also spoke out against all kinds of discrimination, racism, or sexism.

According to the protesting employees, instances of images with naked women in office presentations, a manager telling two female employees not to “les out,” denying benefits to minority groups weren’t rare at Google offices. Vox has talked to some of the ‘googlers’ who participated in the walkout. Some said that they had experienced injustice in the workplace:

“I’ve been seeing more and more of a rift between the top-level execs and the rest of the company, and I’ve seen it growing slowly over time.”

Others shared their own experiences:

“I have worked with an overwhelming majority of men. That, in and of itself, leads me to think that the fact that I am male-identified and male-presenting makes things easier for me. It’s been mostly subtle things, like [women] being interrupted more often [or] ending up in all note-taking responsibilities for meetings.” Simultaneously, the protesters’ Twitter account published five general demands, which The Cut also explained:

1. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.

2. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, for example, making sure there are women of color at all levels of the organization, and accountability for not meeting this commitment.

3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.

4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.

5. Elevate Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. In addition, appoint an employee representative to the board.

While Andy Rubin has called the allegations “a smear campaign,” Google officials expressed support for its employees.

“Obviously it’s been a difficult time. This anger and frustration within the company, we all feel it. I feel it too. At Google we set a very, very high bar and we clearly didn’t live up to our expectations,” officials said in a statement. “And which is why we felt it was important to express our support to the employees today. The first step you take in these things is to acknowledge and apologize for past actions, for the pain they caused. We sincerely did that to the company.”

Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, also said, “Moments like this show that we didn’t always get it right and so we are committed to doing better.”

Some men harass and commit sexual assaults whenever they feel free and safe to do so. Sad to say, but even the progressive IT industry is no exception to this. The existing culture is toxic and provokes people into behaving despicably, then allows them to escape the consequences and even public condemnation. Such cases put in doubt not only Rubin’s reputation, but that of the internet giant’s entire senior management.

The movement has shown that the workers, the Google’s most important asset, are ready to protest against the machine and assert their rights. They understand that this kind of protest would attract global attention to the issue. Therefore, we may hope all this attention in combination with the New York Times article will affect the situation.