Google updates sexual harassment policies following protest

The company says it’s working to make necessary changes.

Google has faced quite a bit of criticism and pushback regarding how it has handled sexual harassment accusations in the past, and thousands of employees walked out of their offices in protest last week. Now, ahead of a company town hall meeting, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has released new policies that will guide how the company handles such accusations going forward. "Over the past few weeks Google's leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you've shared," Pichai wrote. "We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It's clear we need to make some changes."

First, Google will make arbitration optional for sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, and its Investigations Report will now include a new section focused on sexual harassment. That report will include details on how many substantiated or partially substantiated concerns there were, disciplinary actions that were taken and what types of behavior lead to termination at the company. Google will also publicly share its policies on harassment, discrimination, retaliations, standards of conduct and workplace concerns.

Further, Google says it will implement an Investigations Practice Guide that will outline how investigations will be handled and what employees can expect from the process. Employees will be able to help with the development of the guide and it will be updated regularly.

Pichai also notes that the company will make an effort to provide more support to those who bring sexual harassment claims forward. It will offer extended counseling, support for accommodations and leaves, and it will put together a team of advisors on the Employee Relations team focused on sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Further, employees will also be allowed to bring a companion with them when they report harassment concerns and as they move through the investigation process. Google will also take "a fresh look" at its reporting channels to ensure claims are handled with empathy and care. And all employees will be required to complete sexual harassment training each year (compared to every two years as the current policy mandates).

"Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We'll give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable and respectful workplace," said Pichai.

Last week's walkout stemmed from a New York Times report that revealed though Google found a number of sexual harassment claims against high-level employees credible, those employees were given major sums of money as they departed the company. Andy Rubin, for example, was reportedly given $90 million on his way out. Organizers issued Google a list of demands last week aimed at improving the company's culture, a number of which were reflected in Pichai's post.