Tech Workers Are Fed Up With Forced Arbitration

Photo: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Earlier this year, thousands of Google employees walked out of their workplaces in protest of the company’s policies. Among their demands was that Google immediately stop the practice of forced arbitration — making employees settle privately rather than in public courts of law — for harassment, assault, and discrimination cases. CEO Sundar Pichai responded days later with a company-wide letter announcing Google would no longer force arbitration, though only for harassment and assault cases. (He did not, however, address a significant number of the walkout organizers’ other demands.) The walkouts inspired — or rather forced, after journalists came calling — a number of other companies in Silicon Valley to account for their forced arbitration policies, too. Airbnb and eBay have both since changed their sexual harassment policies.

But Googlers are now saying the company’s new policy on forced arbitration isn’t enough; it’s only a start. In a letter published today on Medium, a group calling themselves “Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration” is demanding Google finish the job and that the rest of the industry get on board, too. “The other ‘changes’ they announced simply re-stated our current, ineffective practices or introduced extraneous measures that are irrelevant to bringing equity to the workplace,” the letter explains, noting that the demand for ending forced arbitration was only “partially met.” “U.S. employee contracts still have the arbitration waiver in effect. We have not heard of any plan to render these waivers null and void.”

The so-called updates also do not apply to TVCs, Google’s temporary, vendor, and contract workers who are largely women and people of color. (TVCs published a different letter on Medium earlier this month demanding equal treatment. That letter noted that during the shooting at YouTube’s campus in San Bruno in April, TVCs did not receive the real-time emergency email updates that full-time employees did.) And they do not address the walkout organizer’s demands to end forced arbitration in discrimination cases. “We ask all our workers industry-wide to join our fight, ” the letter concludes, followed by signatures from over 30 employees.

Tech Workers Are Fed Up With Forced Arbitration