Google employee protests foster change in the tech workplace

 FILE- In this Nov. 1, 2018, file photo workers protest against Google's handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture. CEO Sundar Pichai spelled out the concessions in an email sent Thursday, Nov. 8, to Google employees. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

FILE- In this Nov. 1, 2018, file photo workers protest against Google’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture. CEO Sundar Pichai spelled out the concessions in an email sent Thursday, Nov. 8, to Google employees. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Last Thursday in Google offices all over the world, employees poured out onto the streets in protest of the company’s treatment of sexual misconduct. These widespread walkouts of 20,000 Google employees were in reaction to a New York Times report on how the company has protected executives accused of sexual harassment. Holding signs reading, “Ok Google, set a timer for ‘up’” and “Ok Google, really?” workers responded to the unfair treatment of women, specifically in the case of Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software.

In 2014, Rubin was fired from Google after a report was filed by a member of the Android team with whom he was formerly in a relationship. Towards the end of their affair, she wanted to break it off, but was too worried about what would happen to her career. That March, she agreed to meet him at a hotel where she was pressured and coerced into oral sex, an incident which ended the relationship. In response to this report, Google could have fired Rubin without or with little severence and had him leave the very same day as they have done with their lower-level employees. Instead, the company negotiated a $90 million severance package and even invested millions of dollars in his next business venture.

This is not the only case of Google’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations. David Drummond, Alphabet’s chief legal officer, and Jennifer Blakely, a senior contract manager, had an extramarital relationship. This being discouraged at Google, one of them had to leave the company which was, of course, going to be Blakely. She was a liability for Google. They transferred her to sales where she quit a year after, signing waivers and releases saying she left voluntarily. Drummond has flourished since then, reaping $190 million from Stock Options. Another employee, Richard DeVaul the director at Google X, told a potential employee during a job interview that he and his wife had an open marriage. He then proceeded to invite her to the festival Burning Man, which she took as a business opportunity, where he told her to take off her top so he could give her a back massage. DeVaul claimed this was an error of judgement when she reported the incident and Google responded by saying it was most likely not true and that appropriate action had already been taken.

Clearly from the incredibly unjust way Google handled these three cases and many more there is a problem within the company in their treatment of women that must be changed. Not only did they ignore and deny the severity of these allegations in some cases, but they went on to further support the accused. Wendy Liu, a previous employee of Google, commented on the recent protests saying, “tech companies often try to get employees to see themselves as ‘team members’ and part of a ‘family’ who should feel love and gratitude for their company.” She went on to say how extremely unhealthy this environment is for workers. They feel a sense of obligation to their company that stops them from speaking out against injustices such as these. In the white-collar tech field, unions are nearly non-existent since employees enjoy perks, career mobility and large salaries. This is why the protests at Google were so important. They reflect a change in the tech sector towards a separation of the workers from the employers, one that fosters an openness to conversations and change.

Since the walkouts, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has apologized for the manner in which the company has handled these sexual misconduct cases and has announced a new plan of action for progress. Hopefully, the display of unity and support among the employees at Google and the positive response they have gotten will spur action in other companies within the tech sector to do the same. It is time for a stronger response to sexual harassment in the workplace, this injustice should never be tolerated. Employees of all genders, races and sexualities should feel comfortable in their place of work. These walkouts are showing and supporting that the time is up for inequality in the workplace.


Samantha Pierce is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at samantha.pierce@uconn.edu.

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