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Harassment allegations: the catalyst for Google staff walkout

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Thousands of Google staff (employees and contractors) across 50 locations walked out of their jobs on Thursday 1 November in protest at the company’s response to claims of sexual harassment and gender inequality. The demonstrations took place at the company’s offices around the world, beginning at 11.10am in Tokyo before rolling out across Europe and North America, finishing at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The walkout came after it emerged that Google reportedly gave Andy Rubin, a former executive, a US$90 million severance package after he left the company, despite the “credible” sexual misconduct allegations against him. It has also been reported that Andy Rubin is among a number of Google executives who have had allegations of sexual misconduct made against them.

One of the protest organisers summed up the company’s action as “the US$90 million straw that broke the camel’s back”. In the wake of the #metoo movement, recent sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump and, more recently, Sir Phillip Green, such a statement resonates with all and is no longer falling on deaf ears. Employees are now finding the courage to speak up on what appears to be a hidden issue in many workplaces.

As such, we recommend employers listen to, and do not ignore or take lightly, allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct. Employers should ensure they have sexual harassment policies in place with clear details of what constitutes sexual harassment and details of the process for reporting it safely and anonymously. This should be coupled with training to ensure all staff understand what constitutes unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. Employers must do all they can to ensure employees are kept safe and must enable employees to speak up on the issue without fear of retaliation.