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Google Announces Changes to Sexual Harassment Policies

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company will change how it handles sexual harassment allegations, including by making arbitration in those cases optional, he said in a letter to employees on Thursday. The new policies follow a protest last week by more than 20,000 Google employees and contractors, who walked out of their offices following a report about a $90 million severance payment to Android founder Andy Rubin following sexual harassment claims. “It’s clear we need to make some changes,” Mr. Pichai wrote in Thursday letter sent to employees.

The most significant of the changes was the one involving arbitration, a process that has allowed companies to avoid the costs and publicity of court trials but which has been widely criticized for helping them sweep harassment claims under the rug. Mr. Pichai said Google has never required confidentiality in arbitration cases and that some employees may favor that process for privacy reasons.   

Other changes announced by Mr. Pichai include new processes for reporting harassment, discouraging drinking at company events and new mandatory sexual harassment training. He said leadership will provide monthly updates on diversity and inclusion. Many of the changes matched the demands of protesters last week, though Google didn’t make all the requested changes, like having the Chief Diversity Officer report directly to Mr. Pichai. While the new policies are a step in the direction of satisfying employee concerns, how Google implements them is arguably more important.

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