Corporate Culture: Walkouts Over Harassment at Google

by: The Knowledge Group

November 05, 2018


Using the hashtag #GoogleWalkout, workers at Google have staged walkouts over the company’s handling of harassment.

The walkouts have occurred in Asia, Europe, and the United States. In Silicon Valley, thousands walked out of buildings in protest.

The actions began after an October article in The New York Times, reporting on Google’s quiet dismissals of 48 executives accused of harassment. The story noted that Andy Rubin, who created Android mobile software, got a $90 million exit package although Google found harassment claims against him credible.

Among other demands, organizers want Google to stop using private arbitration in harassment cases.

Duel of the Memos

When James Damore circulated an internal memo at Google, declaring that women by nature are less suited to engineering roles, Google got active in moderating discussions. Caught in the backlash was Colin McMillen, a software engineer chastised for an internal post stating he would not wish to work with people who agree with Damore.

In August 2017, shortly after Damore’s memo was published by Gizmodo, an employee named Chevalier likened James Damore’s logic to rationales offered by domestic abusers and mass shooters, in its sense of entitlement and gender superiority. Google fired Chevalier. Now, Chevalier is suing Google—not just for retaliation and wrongful firing, but also for a culture of discrimination and harassment.

Damore has developed a class-action suit against Google, while the National Labor Relations Board has published a guidance memo endorsing Google’s right to have fired Damore.

Google’s Dilemma

The backdrop for the crisis is Google’s commitment to allowing internal debate and challenges to its policies. This attitude allowed for lively online discussions for years.

Yet now, internal conversations about Google’s diversity initiatives may meet with bullying, or be leaked to sites whose members harass the post authors.

At the same time, suits such as that file by Damore and Gudeman say white, male conservatives are being wrongly silenced.

Equal Pay: Federal and State

Google, which has spent some $265 million on diversity and inclusion, faces a gender-gap lawsuit over wages as well.

Be prepared. Know the law. Join us on Tuesday, November 6 for A Look at Federal and State Equal Pay Laws, a recording of this event is available for those who register now.

We are also going to cover appellate litigation on November 15th where one of our segments will be about the impact of the #MeToo movement on appellate litigation, for the full agenda of that webcast, click here.