By Levi Sumagaysay
Less than three years after thousands of Google employees walked out of their offices to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment, the search giant’s workers are again raising the issue in response to a damning report.
In a letter published Friday titled “Alphabet, Stop Protecting Harassers,” more than a thousand employees said the company has a pattern of protecting those who have been accused of misconduct. They asked Alphabet Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +0.62% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +0.73% Chief Executive Sundar Pichai to relieve harassers of their management responsibilities and to move them away from the employees they have been verified to have harassed.
“Alphabet workers deserve the right to work in an environment free from their abusers,” the employees said in the letter, which came in response to an op-ed in the New York Times this week by Emi Nietfeld, a former Google engineer who wrote that she left the company after being forced to continue working with someone who harassed her.
In the letter, the employees also said the walkout’s demands “are still waiting to be met,” including that Google stop requiring temporary, vendor and contract (TVC) workers to agree to arbitration.
See: Google settles shareholder lawsuits over sexual-harassment scandals
In November 2018, thousands of Google employees walked out in protest after a New York Times story revealed that the company had paid hundreds of millions of dollars to former executives who were accused of harassment, in many cases without disclosing why they had left Google.
One of the walkout’s demands was for the company to stop using mandatory arbitration as a way to keep such instances a secret. After the walkout — and subsequent litigation — Google got rid of mandatory arbitration of harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims across all Alphabet companies, but not for TVCs.
In a statement Friday, Google said it conducts thorough investigations and has made changes in its handling of employee concerns: “Reporting misconduct takes courage and we’ll continue our work to improve our processes and support for the people who do.”
The Alphabet Workers Union , which did not sign the letter, said in a statement: “Union members helped draft this letter because we know collective demands are the only way management will listen to worker concerns.”
For more: What can a small union for well-paid Google workers accomplish? Quite a bit, experts say
The letter, which started off Friday morning signed by a few dozen Google employees, had more than a thousand signatures at the end of the workday in California, home to the company’s headquarters.