Google employees pressure tech companies to end forced arbitration

Toby Melville | Reuters

Workers stand outside the Google offices after walking out as part of a global protest over workplace issues, in London, Britain, November 1, 2018. 

Google employees, who walked out of offices around the world in November in protest of sexual harassment policies, are extending their critiques to the rest of the industry. The organizers are launching a social media campaign Tuesday to educate the public and protest the issue of forced arbitration by tech companies.

Google employees walked out of offices worldwide in November after the New York Times reported that former Android leader Andy Rubin was allegedly paid a $90 million exit package after credible sexual assault allegations had been brought against him. In response to protesters’ demands, Google told employees that forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and assault claims will be made optional. But organizers still feel this didn’t go far enough, they wrote in the Medium post.

“The change yielded a win in the headlines, but provided no meaningful gains for worker equity … nor any actual change in employee contracts or future offer letters,” they wrote, adding that as of the post’s publication, “Google is still sending out offer letters with the old arbitration policy.”

Google did not immediately return a request for comment.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, the organizers will share facts about forced arbitration on Twitter every hour on the hour, and interviews with sexual assault survivors and experts on Instagram every hour on the half hour, according to the Medium post announcing the campaign.

Organizers researched contracts of about 30 major tech companies and 10 contract employee suppliers leading up to the campaign, Recode reported. But none of the companies reviewed met their expectations for protecting the rights of employees to bring workplace issues to the courts, according to Recode.

According to a study reviewing the outcomes of arbitration cases between 2003 and 2007, the number of cases won by employees tended to be lower in arbitration than in the courts, and the amount employees were awarded when they did win was lower on average in arbitration cases than in the courts.

The Google organizers said their fight against against forced arbitration is an important step in advancing workplace equity overall.

“Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace,” the organizers wrote.

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Google employees walk out to protest the handling of sexual harassment allegations

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