Google Employees Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment Scandals
Google employees around the world were staging coordinated walkouts on Thursday to protest what they say is a workplace culture that has turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and discrimination.
The demonstrations, dubbed “Google Walkout,” follow an outcry over a New York Times investigation that detailed years of sexual harassment allegations, multimillion-dollar severance packages for accused executives, and a lack of transparency over the cases.
Google (GOOGL) workers from Tokyo to San Francisco were taking part in the protests, walking out of their offices at 11:10 a.m. local time.
In New York City, workers spilled out of the company’s Chelsea headquarters, filling a nearby park to capacity and chanting in unison “Time is up.” Some held signs reading “Women’s rights are human rights” and “C++ Style, No exceptions. Code of conduct, No exceptions!”
Diana Scholl, who is on the social marketing team at Google’s YouTube, is among the protestors. She’s been at the company for about six months — her first five months she was a temporary employee.
“I think the NYT story was the catalyst but it’s been a long time coming,” she said of the protest.
Demonstrations are also expected at Google’s San Francisco office and its corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California. Earlier in the day, about 150 Google employees in India participated in the walkouts, a company spokesman in the country told CNN. Google has about 2,000 staff members across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Protests were also reported at the company’s Singapore and Tokyo offices. It was unclear how many people participated but each office has more than 1,000 employees, a spokesman said.
In Europe, CNN witnessed a small group of Google employees walk out at the company’s London headquarters. A larger protest was reported in Zurich, Switzerland. A Twitter account named @googlewalkout posted photos of people at what it said were protests at Google’s Singapore, Tokyo, Berlin and Zurich offices.
“We’re walking out in support of those who’ve been harassed anywhere in the workplace, and to ensure that perpetrators are not rewarded and are not protected,” Sam Dutton, a developer advocate at Google, told CNN in London.
Google, along with other Silicon Valley companies and tech startups, have been rocked in recent years by allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace and accusations the corporate culture has allowed for racial and gender discrimination in hiring, pay and promotions.
The organizers of the Google protest wrote in an op-ed in New York Magazine they are demanding company leadership take concrete steps, including an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and “transparent data on the gender, race and ethnicity compensation gap.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has voiced his support for the walkouts.
“We let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” Pichai said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.
“Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward,” he said. “We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
Marc Benioff, the billionaire founder of Salesforce, told CNN Business in an interview he supported women employees at Google who are calling for a sea change at the company. “I’m with you,” he said. “I’m with women who feel that they needed a voice or an advocate for equality.”
In an email sent shortly after the Times investigation was published last week, Google’s management stressed to employees that the company is “dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace.”
According to the report, the company stayed silent about sexual misconduct allegations against three executives over the past decade, including Android creator Andy Rubin, who left the company in 2014. Tech news site The Information previously reported that Google had investigated Rubin for an inappropriate relationship while at the company.
But the Times uncovered new details, including a reported $90 million exit package that Rubin is said to have been granted when he departed the company. The Times reported that Rubin was accused of coercing a female employee, with whom he’d been having affair, into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013. A Google investigation found her claim to be credible and then-CEO Larry Page asked Rubin to resign, according to the Times.
Sam Singer, a lawyer for Rubin, disputed the allegations in the Times report.
“None of the allegations made about Mr. Rubin are true,” he told CNN Business in a statement, calling them “demonstrably false.”
Earlier this week, Richard DeVaul, a director of Google X, resigned from his position. The Times report claimed he had sexually harassed a job applicant. DeVaul is leaving without any exit package, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In a statement to the Times, DeVaul said he was sorry for the “error of judgement.” CNN wasn’t able to reach him for comment.