Following walkouts at Google offices around the world a week ago, CEO Sundar Pichai announced a series of changes to sexual harassment policy at the company today. A blog post provides a flyover of the policy changes, the details of which are in an internal Google announcement only viewable to employees (if anyone wants to share it with us completely anonymously, feel free). Those walking out demanded a series of five changes at Google, and it appears they're getting at least one of them, and arguably the one that was seen as most controversial.
That change comes in an end to the requirement that internal sexual harassment claims be forced into arbitration (i.e., employees were not allowed to sue their workplace harassers). While Google maintains that the company's arbitration system was never meant to shield harassers from the public eye, arbitration can by its nature have that effect. The proceedings are closed-door, and confidentiality is often encouraged in such situations as a good faith first step to reaching a resolution. A lawsuit, by its nature, is a far more public affair. For those who have been the victims of a superior, this is certainly a win - outside legal counsel can aggressively pursue claims through discovery, and the threat of having their lives turned inside-out in a public forum will probably make would-be harassers think twice.
Other changes are, frankly, less substantial. Google will be overhauling its workplace harassment reporting system into a single site with live support. In-person reporting will now include the ability for a reporter to bring a support person with them when reporting an incident (something that can make victims more likely to come forward). Those who do report workplace harassment will have additional counseling and career support options made available to them.
Demands from the walkout to address pay inequality and opportunity inequity were not directly addressed, nor was the demand for a Google employee representative on the Alphabet board of directors. While not the "public sexual harassment transparency support" Googlers had requested, Pichai does state that Google will include "more granularity around sexual harassment investigations" as part of its internally published Investigations Report (these reports are not public).
Finally, employees will be docked marks on their annual performance reviews if they fail to complete sexual harassment training as part of the changes announced today, and that training will have a revised and expanded curriculum going forward. All in all, these seem like positive changes, even if some of it does come off as a bit more lip service than real responsive action. To read more, check out the blog post below.