Months after thousands of its employees walked out on their work demanding change, Google is finally making some. The company announced Thursday that it will be ending forced arbitration as a mandatory practice for employees. That means if you work at Google and you have an issue you’d like to raise in court, you can now sue your employer. The policy, however, will only apply to full-time employees at Google (and a few projects under Google) but will not cover staffers at other Alphabet companies, nor will it cover TVCs, Google’s contract workers, Axios reports.
These changes will go into effect on March 21. Issues previously settled via arbitration will not be eligible for reopening, though if an employee is still mid-arbitration on March 21 they can pivot to a lawsuit, should they wish to do so. Ending forced arbitration was among the list of demands circulated by the employees who initiated the Google Walkout in November 2018. In December, a group of employees calling themselves the “Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration” published a letter on Medium highlighting why the company needed to overhaul its current practices. Google CEO Sundar Pichai initially responded — a week after the walkout — by announcing that the company would end forced arbitration for “individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.” As with this week’s change, that policy shift did not apply to TVCs at Google.
In fact, TVCs — who are predominantly women and people of color and make up more than half of Google’s workforce — weren’t even informed of the change. They did not receive the company-wide email sent by Pichai, according to an open letter posted on Medium by a coalition of TVCs and full-time employees demanding equal treatment for TVCs. (The letter also noted that when an active shooter attacked YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California, TVCs were left in the dark. The real-time safety and information emails were only sent to full-time employees.)
Google’s finally ending forced arbitration is good news. But it’s not like Google has done this out of the kindness of its heart. The company did not wake up and realize that allowing employees to litigate their very real problems in the light of day is the ethical thing to do. It spent months calculating behind closed doors before finally making the change. And even then, as when it ended its policy of forced arbitration for harassment cases, it still didn’t go far enough to make the change for all of its employees.