Two Google employees, who helped organize a work tournament, estimated to involve 20,000 workers in protest against the company's abuse of sexual harassment and abuse cases in November 2018, claiming that Google retaliated against them, according to Wired.
Wired wrote that Meredith Whittaker from Google's Open Research Artificial Intelligence Project and YouTube Chief Claire Stapleton said they faced professional consequences as a result of organizing the event. In a letter posted to internal Google mailing lists retrieved by Wired, Whittaker wrote that shortly after the company dissolved an AI Ethics Council, she was told that her role would "change dramatically" and that she had to leave her work for one. New York University Research Institute:
Shortly after Google announced it would dissolve its AI Ethics Council, I was informed that my role would be dramatically changed. I am told that I will be with the company. I have to leave my work with AI Ethics and the AI Now Institute, which I am related to, and who have done rigorous and reputable work on these topics. I have been working on issues of AI ethics and bias for many years, and is one of those that helped shape the field that looks at these issues. I have also taken risks to push for a more ethical Google, though this is less profitable or practical.
Stapleton wrote in the letter that two months after the expiration, Google informed her that she would "be demoted, that I would lose half of my reports, and that a project approved was no longer on the table." She added that when she escalated the question to human resources and a vice president, "it made things worse"; Stapleton wrote that she was asked to take medical leave, even though she was not ill.
While Stapleton contacted a lawyer and vice versa, she concluded that she still feels that Google is a hostile work environment:
After Five Years As a high performance in YouTube Marketing (and almost twelve on Google), two months after Walkout, I was told I would be demoted, that I would lose half of my reports, and that a project approved was no longer on the table. I escalated to HR and to my VP, which made things worse. My manager started to ignore me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on sick leave, even though I'm not sick. Only after I had hired a lawyer and had contact with Google, the management led a survey and went back my down, at least on paper. While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I am considering quitting almost every day.
The two stated in the letter that they had collected over 300 stories of retaliation by Google during the exit, writing people who "stand up and report discrimination, abuse and unethical behavior are punished, sidelines and squeezed out." They also announced plans for a City Hall meeting to solve the problem and asked other Google workers to share their own stories of retaliation.
"I think it's pretty okay," said software engineer and other walkout organizer Amr Gaber to the New York Times. "Google has never treated them this way, and then the exit went. Now they have to deal with being told that their work is no longer valuable."
The original exit followed a Times article that revealed that Google had organized a $ 90 million exit package for Android OS creator Andy Rubin, who left the company among charges of sexual harassment. Although the company later apologized and said dozens of people had shot for similar negligence over the last few years with no retirement packages, the events further drew attention to other employees' demands as an end to compulsory arbitration in labor disputes, profitability, better sexual harassment and default reporting, and transparency guidelines, and an increased role for its Chief Diversity Officer.
Employees, including Whittaker and Stapleton, requested a one-time walkout – which actually occurred, and drew an estimated 20,000 employees across the United States, Europe, and Asia on November 1, 2018. Shortly after, Google terminated its mandatory arbitration policy in the case of sexual Harassment (and earlier this year it said it would terminate arbitration agreements on all issues in employment contracts).
In a multi-media statement, a Google spokesman rejected accusations that an employee had been retaliated against for his role in the walkout, and wrote, "We forbid retaliation in the workplace and investigate all claims. Employees and teams regularly and often given new missions, or reorganized, to keep up with evolving business needs. There has been no return here. "The full letter is available to read on at Wired. Gizmodo has reached out for further comment from Google and we update if we hear back.
[Wired/New York Times]