Google’s parent company Alphabet confirmed Wednesday that its board is investigating how executives handled accusations of misconduct including s*xual harassment.
“In early 2019, Alphabet’s board of directors formed a special litigation committee to consider claims made by shareholders in various lawsuits relating to past workplace conduct,” an Alphabet spokesperson told AFP.
The board hired a law firm to help the committee. It was to contact those who filed complaints and scrutinise cases, including one involving the Alphabet chief legal officer.
Alphabet’s Google in November outlined changes to its handling of s*xual misconduct complaints. It hoped to calm outrage that triggered a worldwide walkout of workers.
“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” chief executive Sundar Pichai said at the time in a message to employees.
“It’s clear we need to make some changes.”
Pichai promised more transparency on Google’s part with how it deals with concerns. It would also provide better support and care to those who raise such issues with the company.
Google would provide “more granularity” regarding s*xual harassment investigations and their outcomes, according to Pichai.
The search company announced updates to its mandatory s*xual harassment training and said it would require it annually instead of every two years, as had been the case.
Google also put the onus on team leaders to tighten the tap on booze at company events, on or off-campus, to curtail the potential for drunken misbehaviour.
Despite the assurances, shareholders filed lawsuits against Alphabet accusing it of covering up s*xual misconduct.
Thousands of Google employees joined a coordinated worldwide walkout late last year to protest the US tech giant’s handling of s*xual harassment. A massive turnout at the “Googleplex” in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia. It then spread to Google offices in Europe.
Some 20,000 Google employees and contractors participated in the protest in 50 cities around the world, according to organizers.
The protest took shape after Google said it had fired 48 employees in the prior two years as a result of allegations of s*xual misconduct. This included 13 senior executives.
Demands by protestors included putting employee representation on the board.