Hundreds of Australian Google employees walked off the job last week, to protest how the company has treated executives accused of sexual harassment.
The Sydney-based workers gathered for half an hour, as thousands of other Google employees around the world walked off the job on Thursday and Friday.
Nadia, who declined to give her surname, told Fairfax that she joined the walkout to protest the culture at Google.
“I’m protesting against harassment, bullying, and a culture in which we are supporting our executives when junior employees make a claim against the company,” Nadia said.
She said the culture within Google was generally good, which is why many people had remained with the company.
“There are cracks, though, and this is why we’re here,” she said.
Protest sparked by huge payout to executive accused of sexual misconduct
The global Google walkout was sparked by an article published in the New York Times about former executive Andy Rubin, who received a $90 million severance package in 2014, after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
Rubin has denied the allegations.
One speaker at the Sydney rally shared an anonymous story from another employee, who said that one of her managers got drunk and tried to kiss her as she helped him return to his hotel.
Another said workplace sexual misconduct was not an issue contained to Google’s US offices.
“This is a terrible part of our culture, a part that is present here in the Sydney office and the broader Sydney tech community,” the speaker said.
“This is a part of our culture that we need to change.”
The protests started in Europe and Asia, and moved to the United States before Sydney’s walkout on Friday morning.
About 1000 employees at Google’s headquarters in San Francisco walked off the job for half an hour on Thursday, chanting: “Women’s rights are workers’ rights!”
Hundreds also walked out in New York, carrying signs with messages including “Don’t Be Evil” and “Not OK Google”.
Walkout organisers want Google to commit to ending pay inequity and to create a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report and a clearer process for reporting complaints.
They are also calling for an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
Google admits it needs to do better
Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai said the company clearly did not live up to the expectations of employees when it came to dealing with sexual harassment and was “committed to doing better”.
“We are listening to employees, that’s partly why today is important and I think there are concrete steps coming out in terms of what we can do better,” he said.
“I want to acknowledge the women who step up and do this. I think it shows extraordinary courage. And we want to figure out how to support them better and it’s a process and I’m committed to doing better.”
Nationwide McDonald’s walk out
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said the Google protest followed a nationwide walkout of McDonald’s employees who also were protesting widespread sexual harassment in that company.
“Sexual harassment is never okay, but in the past, if the perpetrator was an executive or a manager, allegations were either swept under the carpet, or the person making the complaint was moved on, or quietly paid out,” he said.
“I think what we are seeing here is workers are standing up and saying we are not going to put up with this anymore, and certainly some of these mega companies are now on notice.”
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