Google staff stage walkout in Dublin over sexual harassment

Dublin workers join colleagues in worldwide action over alleged leniency on misconduct

Google staff during walkout at the Dublin office in Barrow Street. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Google staff during walkout at the Dublin office in Barrow Street. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Google staff in Dublin joined thousands of colleagues across the world in staging a workplace walkout in protest at the company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.

Demonstrations took place at 11.10am local time at each of the company’s offices around the world.

Employees were urged to leave a flyer at their desk which reads: “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out in solidarity with other Googlers and contractors to protest [against] sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.”

The Walkout for Real Change protest comes a week after it emerged that Google gave a $90 million (€79 million) severance package to Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile phone software, but concealed details of a sexual misconduct allegation that triggered his departure. Mr Rubin has denied the allegations.

In Dublin, a steady stream of staff began leaving Google’s buildings in Barrow Street, gathering beside Google Docks shortly after 11am. A short time later, numbers had swelled to an estimated couple of hundred staff, who stood waiting to hear from organisers.

The demonstration was organised in a day. The coordinator in Dublin, whose name was given as Kate, said she had not personally experienced any form of sexual harassment or misconduct at Google, but she wanted to create a space to show support for doing whatever it takes to eliminate such behaviour.

‘Personal reasons’

“I stand here today as an ally for anyone who has suffered, anyone who is suffering or anyone who may suffer as a result of any such unacceptable treatment,” she told the crowd, thanking them for supporting the event. “Each and every one of you has your own personal reasons for standing here.”

Few Google employees taking part in the walkout wanted to talk to waiting media about the grassroots demonstration. Speaking outside the Barrow Street office, one employee who wanted to remain anonymous, said the aim of the demonstration was to send a message to the company.

“We want to lend our voice to people who have been the victims of bad behaviour but also to tell the people who are the stewards of this company that type of behaviour is unacceptable, and if that behaviour was committed by any one of us who are not executives, we would be quite rightly fired on the spot – not given $90 million to go away,” the employee said. “This company was founded on the basis of don’t be evil. I think it’s disheartening to see something like this. We need to go back to the core founding principle.”

That wasn’t the only person to draw attention to Google’s founding principle – another Googler wore the slogan on his T-shirt.

All levels

One employee said the demonstration was a show of support to people who may have experienced similar behaviour in the workplace, or who could come up against it in the future.

Employees from all levels of the organisation took part in the walkout, including managers.

Last Thursday, chief executive Sundar Pichai said Google had taken a “hard line” over sexual misconduct allegations, revealing that 48 people, including 13 senior managers, had been fired in the past two years. However, these cases were not mentioned in the company’s latest earnings figures.

Campaigners have posted a list of five demands, including an end to pay and opportunity inequality as well as greater transparency about sexual harassment.

“Yesterday, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” Mr Pichai said. “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.” – Additional reporting: Guardian