- Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after thousands of high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture.
According to the email, arbitration in harassment or assault claims will now be optional, and the company will track and make public information about reported incidents of misconduct and how they are dealt with.
The company also said in a longer document that it would be changing the way it conducts internal investigations, noting that there would now be a "global process that will allow Googlers to be accompanied by a companion during an HR investigation, or when raising/reporting any harassment or discrimination concerns to HR".
"Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns", he wrote.
The walkout came a week after The New York Times published a bombshell investigative report on sexual harassment at Google. Google will also take "a fresh look" at its reporting channels to ensure claims are handled with empathy and care.
Google is also putting the onus on team leaders to tighten the tap on booze at company events, on or off campus, to curtail the potential for drunken misbehavior.
"They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top", organizer and Google employee Stephanie Parker said in a press release. "Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse", the section (correctly) states at the outset, before delving into details on teams using drink tickets to limit alcohol consumption. Employee-gathered data suggests the company pays men more than women; Google takes issue with those figures and argues women at the company make 99.7 cents for every dollar men make.
"We have an aspiration to be the best company in the world", Rodriguez said.
The changes didn't go far enough to satisfy Vicki Tardif Holland, a Google employee who helped organize and spoke at the protests near the company's Cambridge, Massachusetts, office last week.
The measures, Mr Pichai said, will increase transparency around instances of sexual harassment, expand mandatory training, and offer increased support for those with claims.
More widely, Google's move to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims may energise employees at other firms to demand the same. "However, the response ignored several of the core demands - like elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on the board - and troublingly erased those focused on racism, discrimination, and the structural inequity built into the modern day Jim Crow class system that separates "full time" employees from contract workers".