On November 1st, a walkout occurred amongst Google employees across the globe in protest of sexual harassment policies at the company.
Employees who joined the protest left signs at their desks reading, “"I'm not at my desk right now because I'm walking out in solidarity with Googlers and other contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency and a workplace culture that's not working for everyone.".
The protest was sparked after it was leaked that Google had not only paid off Andy Rubin, a man who received $90 million after Google deemed harassment claims against him were credible, but also did the same with other executives in similar situations. A full report of the investigation by the New York Times can be found here, detailing numerous instances with Rubin, and other executives. The demands of the protestors can be found on their twitter page, Google Walkout For Real Change.
What this walkout and the reasons behind it demonstrate above all is the lenience with which sexual harassment is dealt with and the results of that lenience. In the investigation, it is explained that Rubin was involved numerous times in inappropriate situations: coercing oral sex, bondage videos were found on his computer (his bonus was docked as punishment), relationships with subordinates, amongst others.
Yet Google did nothing but dock pay, turn the other way, and finally, pay him $90 million once the claims about coercing oral sex from a partner he worked with were substantiated. Similarly, other men accused left Google with large payouts. This teaches men and women that sexual harassment, and abuse, will not be dealt with in a negative manner. Instead, assaulters and abusers will receive a hefty payout, and some fairly good references.
But why do we still think it’s okay to keep this quiet? Why do we continue to ignore the reality that keeping sexual assault quiet just perpetuates a culture of victim blaming and a lack of consequences?
It also makes you questions how often this type of situation happens. The Time’s Up movement demonstrated that sexual assault is frequent, but it also seemed to be the start of a change. Does this situation show that the change isn’t actually occurring? How many other companies are paying off executives? More importantly, how many victims are out there, wondering if it’s safe to report, or if their assaulter will actually face consequences?
The walkout was a good start at showing Google, and other companies, that dealing with sexual harassment claims in such a way is not something employees will stand for. It should not have happened, however, and it is a sad day when a supposedly ‘progressive’ company makes its employees to feel unsafe on the job.
Regardless of capitalism, reputations, or money, corporations have a moral obligation to recognize and deal with sexual harassment in an appropriate manner that makes everyone feel safe. It is unfortunate that that still needs to be said so plainly.