Google updates sexual harassment policy after massive employee protests

In the wake of severe employee backlash and thousands walking out around the world demanding change, Google has updated its sexual harassment policy, apologizing to its employees, adding "it's clear we need to make some changes."

The email, from CEO Sundar Pichai, outlines a series of changes the company will make to ensure more transparency on concerns, providing better support and care to the people who raise these issues and  "double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace."


As outlined in the email, here are some of the changes Google will be making:

  • We will make 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. 
  • We will provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report.
  • We’re revamping the way we handle and look into your concerns 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,
  • We will update and expand our mandatory sexual harassment training. From now on if you don’t complete your training, you’ll receive a one-rating dock in Perf (editor's note: Perf is our performance review system). 
  • We will recommit to our company-wide OKR around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone. Our Chief Diversity Officer will continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team. 

Pichai added that "this is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so."

The email comes just days after thousands of Google employees across the globe walked out of their respective offices in protest at the company's response to previous sexual harassment cases and pay inequality, demanding changes.

"We were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power," organizers of the #GoogleWalkout said in a statement to Fox News. "Sadly, this is part of a longstanding problem, one further amplified by systemic racism. We know this culture well."


In New York City, throngs of Google employees filled a nearby park to capacity, carrying signs that said "Times Up Tech" and "Workers Rights Are Women's Rights." Pichai was aware of the walkouts and appeared to give tacit approval of the measure.

"What you read in the New York Times are a small sampling of the thousands of stories we all have, the thousands of stories we carry for each other, the thousands of instances of abuse of power, discrimination, harassment and a pattern of unethical and thoughtless decision-making that has marked this company for the last year and that has marked our culture and scarred so many of us," said Meredith Whittaker, Google Open Reseach founder and an organizer of the demonstration, to the assembled crowd not far from Google's New York City office in Chelsea.

The walkout drew large crowds in several cities where Google maintains offices, including Dublin, Zurich, London, Tokyo and Singapore. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, currently employs 94,372 people as of its most recent quarter.


Last month, Pichai apologized after the New York Times reported Google paid Android creator Andy Rubin a $90 million severance package after a sexual harassment complaint. The Times report also mentioned Rich DeVaul, the former director at Alphabet 's research arm, X. DeVaul resigned from the company and did not receive a severance package, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Fox News' Christopher Carbone contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia