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'Stop protecting harassers', demand 500 Google employees in open letter to Sundar Pichai

'Stop protecting harassers', demand 500 Google employees in open letter to Sundar Pichai

"This is a long pattern where Alphabet protects the harasser instead of protecting the person harmed by the harassment. The person who reports harassment is forced to bear the burden," the letter read

An open letter, signed by more than 500 Google employees, to Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai urged the company to stop protecting those accused of harassment. The letter demands that harassers should not be allowed to lead or manage a team. It further urges that harassers should be forced to change teams if the allegations against them are substantiated so that employees don't have to work alongside their harasser.

The letter comes close on the heels of a New York Times article by former Google engineer Emi Nietfeld which recounted how she was forced to attend one-on-one meetings with her harasser and even made to sit next to him in the office despite an HR complaint.

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"This is a long pattern where Alphabet protects the harasser instead of protecting the person harmed by the harassment... The person who reports harassment is forced to bear the burden, usually leaving Alphabet while their harasser stays or is rewarded for their behaviour," The Verge quoted the open letter to Pichai.

Allegations of harassment have hounded Google in the past. Back in 2018, Android co-founder Andy Rubin was paid $90 million despite being accused of sexual misconduct. Around 20,000 Google employees had walked out to protest the company's handling of sexual harassment at the workplace.

The walkout organisers had demanded an end to forced arbitration clause in contracts. While the tech giant had rolled back the clause for employees, it continues for contractors and workers at other Alphabet companies.

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"Alphabet has not changed, and did not meet any of the Google Walkout demands (temps, vendors, contractors, and workers from Alphabet companies other than Google are still forced into arbitration)," the letter says demanding blanket end to forced arbitration. "We've already raised these issues before. The Google Walkout demands are still waiting to be met!"

Talking to The Verge, a Google spokesperson claimed that the company has evolved in the way it handles harassment allegations since the walkout days. Significant changes have been introduced in handling and investigating employee concerns, and new care programmes for employees who report concerns, the spokesperson added.