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Google’s sexual harassment settlement includes stringent reforms to internal policies


More than a year after Google became the subject of legal action over its mishandling of sexual allegation incidents involving top executives, the company earlier this month settled the lawsuit with promises of swift reforms. This includes not only a $310 million pledge toward diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives but, as CNBC reports, also requires the company to institute sweeping reforms to its internal policies concerning sexual misconduct, discrimination, and retaliation incidents.

In total, the 177-page settlement filing obliges Google and parent company Alphabet to more than 80 changes to its policies. The company had in 2018 resolved to end forced arbitration for full-time employees at Google but has now extended the same to also include all of its workers, including contract employees, as well as those working at Alphabet’s ‘Other Bets’ divisions.

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The extensive settlement aims to serve as an example for Silicon Valley at large, with Julie Goldsmith Resir, a lawyer representing the Google shareholders that initiated the lawsuit, telling CNBC, “The excuse has always been that these were just a few bad apples. This is the first time they’re saying in detail ‘it’s bigger than that and we aren’t going to allow this.'”

Alphabet also agreed to revise its use of NDAs, which could be used by executives and those in power to silence other employees’ complaints of discrimination and harassment. Employees will now be allowed to discuss facts relating to such incidents.

Google’s executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, global affairs chief Kent Walker, and core engineering SVP Jen Fitzpatrick, will additionally not only be a part of the newly minted Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Council but will also be accountable for the implementation of the Council’s initiatives.

A new “rapid response team” will be responsible for handling allegations against senior executives, while also creating new tools to track employees’ interactions with HR.

The company has also committed to a policy of not providing severance packages to employees who are being investigated for harassment or discrimination, something that was the cause of much furor following Andy Rubin’s $90 million severance package, despite allegations of sexual misconduct. Employees will similarly not be allowed to amend their stock plans while under investigation.

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