Enlarge /. Google's corporate headquarters.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, announced today that it has resolved a number of shareholder lawsuits related to the handling of sexual harassment claims. Alphabet will allocate $ 310 million to corporate diversity programs over the next decade, and the company has agreed to have its board of directors assume a greater oversight role in cases of misconduct.
As part of the new agreement, Alphabet will expand its current "No Compensation Receipts for Misconduct" policy to include anyone currently under investigation for "sexual misconduct or retaliation," Google VP of People Operations Eileen Naughton said in a company blog post.
The settlement is the result of a consolidated series of lawsuits filed against Alphabet in California in 2018 by investor groups. They alleged the company breached its duty of loyalty to shareholders when it retained and paid well male executives who were credibly charged with sexual harassment. (Further shareholder suits in federal courts and in Delaware are pending, according to the New York Times.)
The lawsuits followed reports that found three top Google executives who had left the company on allegations of misconduct had to quietly leave with massive compensation packages. Android developer Andy Rubin received a $ 150 million stock grant and a $ 90 million severance package when he was expelled from the company in 2014 after Google found a sexual misconduct complaint against was believable to him.
Thousands of Google employees staged a strike in 2018 in protest at the way the company handled the cases of Rubin and others. Protest organizers have asked Google to be more transparent about reports of harassment and wage inequality, as well as a new process for secure and anonymous reporting of misconduct and an end to compulsory arbitration.
As part of the settlement, arbitration is now voluntary, and no longer mandatory, not only for Alphabet full-time employees, but also for "temporary workers, salespeople and independent contractors" who have disputes about harassment, discrimination or retaliation with Alphabet. not to seek arbitration in cases of sexual harassment. Employees also do not need to agree to nondisclosure agreements to settle claims of sexual harassment or retaliation.
Alphabet also pledged to "improve investigative processes," including "how we escalate concerns, how quickly we react, how we reopen cases, and more." In the case of complaints involving company executives, a "team of specialists" is also set up to report the results to the Board of Directors.
Google will also officially ban personal relationships ("romantic, physical, family") in direct reporting or management chains, rather than just "severely discouraging" them, which apparently was a company policy up until that point.
"Together, (CEO) Sundar (Pichai), the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board and the Board of Directors will support Alphabet's unwavering commitment to prohibit and respond effectively to complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation and to promote diversity. Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace, "said Naughton. "I am grateful to everyone, especially our employees and shareholders, for providing us with feedback and making sure that the way we approach these important issues is better today than it was in the past."