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Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy after employee walkouts

Google overhauls sexual misconduct policy after employee walkouts

The changes come a week after thousands of Google employees staged a global walkout in protest of the company's handling of harassment charges.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in an interview that the company operates in lots of countries around the world where there is censorship and that when the search giant follows "right to be forgotten" laws, it is censoring search results in order to comply with local laws.

Pichai's note - the announcement was circulated in a company-wide email - does not directly address those demands, but instead says the changes were inspired by "feedback" and "stories" Google received from its employees in recent weeks. Further, employees will also be allowed to bring a companion with them when they report harassment concerns and as they move through the investigation process.

Also, Google is updating the rules for its mandatory sexual harassment training.

The walkouts had five stated goals, including stopping forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, equity in pay and opportunities, a "publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report" and improved processes for reporting sexual misconduct.

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Some teams had imposed "two-drink limits", he said, while others had introduced a ticketing system to stop alcohol flowing freely. As though the basic logic that you shouldn't black out and harass or assault your coworkers shouldn't be enough to keep Google employees from doing so. Employee-gathered data suggests the company pays men more than women; Google takes issue with those figures and argues women at the company make 99.7 cents for every dollar men make.

Reacting to the announcements, the organisers of last week's Google Walkout said the pledges proved "collective action works".

Project Include, an organization that recommends diversity initiatives to tech companies, said on Twitter on Wednesday that without committing to "eliminating wage gaps and Google's focus on just harassment and assault, these [important] changes seem to be just focusing on policies/procedures". Google said in an additional document detailing changes that it will routinely review contractor and temp worker suppliers to see if they adhere to agreements around the handling of employee complaints.

As protesters demanded, the company is also consolidating reporting channels for those with misconduct complaints. A New York Times report spurred the protests after it revealed that Google gave a $90-million exit package to a top executive in 2014 after he was accused of sexual harassment.

"We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers", organiser Stephanie Parker said in the statement.