Two Google employees who worked with a mass pass for employees say they were reluctant to run the company.
In an internal post first reported by Wired Google Open Research leader Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, a YouTube market leader, said that their roles in the company had changed after protests by employees. Whittaker said she was told that her role "would be dramatically changed" after Google abolished its AI Ethics Council and that she could no longer work at the AI Now Institute Research Center. The decision to leave the council was made as employees criticized the inclusion of the president of the Conservative Heritage Foundation.
Stapleton, who has worked for the company for 1[ads1]2 years, said in the post that she was told after the end that she would be demoted. After hiring a lawyer, she wrote, the decision was reversed, "at least on paper." She said she had found a "sad pattern" – people standing up "being punished, slanted and pushed out," she wrote while writing offenders "often go unhindered or even rewarded."
Whittaker, Stapleton and others organized the mass work of 20,000 Google employees in November to protest the company's handling of sexual harassment charges.
I am so grateful for your support. I remain strongly committed to my work @AINowInstitute . Google's retaliation is not about me, or @clairewaves . It's about weighing distance and scaring us to talk honestly about technology and power. NOT OK. Now there is more than ever to talk
– Meredith Whittaker (@mer__edith) April 23, 2019
"I am so grateful for your support," said Whittaker in a tweet after the post was published. "I am strongly committed to my work @AINowInstitute. Google's retaliation is not about me, or @clairewaves. It's about weighing distance and frightening to talk honestly about technology and power. NOT OK. Now it's more than ever "It's time to talk." "We forbid retaliation in the workplace and investigate all claims," a Google spokesman said in a statement. "Employees and teams are regularly and frequently recruited, or reorganized, to keep up with evolving business needs. There has been no retribution here."
The full internal post, obtained by Wired is under:
Hello everyone, this was a difficult email to write.
Google receives multiple organizers.
We're among them, and here's what happens to us:
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 the risk of pushing for a more ethical Google, though this is less profitable or practical.
After five years as a high performer in YouTube Marketing (and almost twelve with Google), two months after Walkout, I was told I would be demoted that I would lose half of my reports and that a project that was 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.
Our stories are not the only ones. Google has a retirement culture, which too often works to make women, colors, and gender minorities. Retaliation is not always obvious. It is often confusing and drawn out, consisting of icy calls, gas lighting, project cancellations, transitional discounts or demotions. Behavior that tells any problem is not that they stood up to the company, that is that they are not good enough and do not belong.
During Walkout we collected 350 stories. When reading them, a sad pattern arises: People who stand up and report discrimination, abuse and unethical behavior are punished, slanted, and pushed out. The perpetrators often go unhindered or even rewarded (Andy, Amit, "I reported he was promoted").
By punishing those who resist discrimination, harassment and unethical decision making. Google allows these listings. This harms people in the business, and communities outside that bear the cause of Google's poor choices. If we want to stop discrimination, harassment, and unethical decision-making, we must stop retaliation against the people who speak honestly about these issues.
We have to push back. Here are some next steps:
1. We will host a Town Hall Assembly to share our stories and strategize. When: Friday, April 26, 11 am PT / 2pm ET. Add the event to your calendar here. [The message included an internal link to a livestream of the meeting.]
2. If you've been reciprocated, please share your story. (If you shared your story with the Walkout form, please share again and help keep everything in one place.) The more we share with each other, the easier it will be to push back. Add yours.