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Walkout Wins: Google Ends Mandatory Arbitration for Sexual Harassment Claims

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 09, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a piece of good tech news, Google seems to have assented to at least one of the demands made by the organizers of last week's big Google walkout.

The company has decided to end mandatory arbitration for all claims of sexual harassment or assault, and make arbitration optional, at the election of the employee. Additionally, Google created a clear policy allowing employees to bring a companion with them to meetings with HR, in an effort to respond to the protesters' demand for more transparency.

Not Over

Notably, for the organizers of the walkout, the concessions already made are not enough. In addition to the end of forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims, even more transparency was sought, as well as more representation with an employee rep seat on the board, and the Chief Diversity Officer reporting to the CEO.

For the employees that walked out and the organizers, Google has a long way to go to make up for its history, and the recent changes are few and far between. One of the big issues that allegedly motivated the walkout involved a $90 million payout to oust a high ranking company official despite there being credible allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Social Pressure

Interestingly, the New York Times posited that the Google walkout was a "watershed moment" for tech as it shows an internal uprising against the pervasive, less-than-inclusive tech culture. It's possible other tech company employees, like those at Twitter or Facebook, will realize they might hold more power than they know to effect change at their company.

Google, and these other tech and social media giants, know just how damaging social media pressure can be these days, and the employees may be uniquely positioned to leverage that pressure better than the companies may have ever thought. It is being widely reported that the Google walkout was organized by the Google employees using Google's own organizational tools.

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