Google’s #metoo: workers walk out in protest at its response to sexual harrassment

Thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their jobs today in protest against the company’s response to sexual harassment, and to demand that it addresses rising concerns about workplace inequality.

The protests took place in waves, beginning in Asia and then streaming across Europe and North America, with the final wave occurring at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The protests, which involved Google contract workers as well as employees, followed a New York Times report last week that in 2014, Google gave a $90m exit package to a senior vice president, Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system, after he was accused of sexual harassment.

“This was the $90 million straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Celie O’Neil-Hart, one of the protest organisers and who works on YouTube marketing. “But there are so many stories that we’ve heard for so long, and it’s time for action and change.”

Rubin denied the allegation in the New York Times story, which he said contained “wild exaggerations” about his compensation. Google did not dispute the report.

Organisers said about 60% of Google’s offices participated, including Dublin, the company’s largest site outside the United States, as well as London, Zurich, Berlin and Singapore.

The employees who organised the demonstrations called on Google’s parent company Alphabet to make harassment investigations fairer for accusers, share pay-equity data with workers, and add an employee representative to its board.

Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai, speaking later at a New York Times conference in New York, said he was taking note of the “concrete steps” workers presented to improve the company’s culture and human resources processes. “I want to make sure Google sets the bar,” he said, adding that a lack of gender and racial diversity was part of the issue. “We’re grappling with it, as with many places.”

Organisers and other employees said Google executives, in common with leaders at dozens of companies highlighted by the #metoo movement, had been slow to address numerous structural issues, such as the unchecked power of male executives.