On Thursday, thousands of Google employees across the globe participated in a mass-walk in protest of the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims.
CNBC reports the movement was dubbed the ‘Walkout for Real Change.’ It comes a week after a New York Times article laid out a series of accusations against former Google executive Andy Rubin.
Rubin, the creator of Android and a long-time top-level Google employee, left the company with a $90 million exit package in October of 2014. The Times claims that Rubin’s reward came even after an internal investigation found sexual harassment claims levied against him to be ‘credible.’
Google didn’t publicize that Rubin, a member of its top brass, had ever been accused of any kind of misconduct.
The woman—with whom Rubin was having an extramarital relationship—claimed the executive had ‘coerced’ her into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013. After the complaint was deemed credible, certain aspects of its settlement were shrouded by confidentiality agreements.
After the Times’ article broke, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a mass e-mail to works reaffirming the tech giant’s commitment to creating a friendly work environment. Pichai said that the company has fired at least 48 employees for sexual misconduct—employees who didn’t receive exit packages or other sorts of compensation.
But Pichai’s attempts to assuage employees were met with some resistance. CNBC writes that workers have begun calling for more empowerment all-around. Demands include increased transparency, especially in relation to sexual misconduct claims and possible pay discrepancies.
CNBC spoke to protesters in a New York City park, thousands of whom packed into a small park with a 750-perosn capacity. Some held signs saying “$90 million = 3,000 years at $15/hour.”
One employee said the Times’ harassment revelations was the final straw for him, after having already found out that Google was working on a censored search app in China.
“It was just like… how much more are we going to find out?” Google software engineer Jon Cohen asked.
“I personally hope that it will empower other people to voice their concerns the same way,” he added.
Others told CNBC they were simply surprised.
“There was a little bit of regret there that I didn’t know a lot of what had been going on at the higher levels like that,” Julian Bardin, a Google account manager, said. “I was caught off guard but motivated to do something about it.”
Pichai said he wouldn’t punish employees who walked out Thursday, saying they “have the support they need if they wish to participate.”
Rubin, meanwhile, claims the accusations are fabrications made up by his ex-wife.
“The New York Times story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation,” Rubin said in a statement. “Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room. These false allegations are part of a smear campaign by my ex-wife to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle.”
Google employees stage global walkout: ‘Let’s talk about being held accountable’
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