Thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their offices in November 2018, demanding change at the company. They walked out for pay equity, for transparency, for more effective sexual misconduct reporting procedures, and for a seat at the table with the board of directors. Since then, Google has made a few of these demands reality. First, it ended forced arbitration for “individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.” Months later, it updated that change to include any situation in which an employee might want to sue Google. (Any full-time employee, that is. The same protections do not apply to Google’s many contract workers, who are predominantly women and people of color.)
But, according to a report Monday from Wired, in addition to glacially making policy changes to save face, Google may also have been retaliating against the very workers who stuck their necks out and directed Google to those issues that needed changing in the first place.
Claire Stapleton, another walkout organizer and a 12-year veteran of the company, said in the email that two months after the protest she was told she would be demoted from her role as marketing manager at YouTube and lose half her reports. After escalating the issue to human resources, she said she faced further retaliation. “My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Stapleton wrote. After she hired a lawyer; the company conducted an investigation and seemed to reverse her demotion. “While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day,” she wrote.
Meredith Whittaker — she heads Google’s Open Research Group and the Google Measurement Lab — was recently told her position was going to “change dramatically,” Wired also reports. Whitaker, in a message she and Stapleton sent internally, said the company told her she would need to stop her work at an AI research center she founded at New York University. The pair are coordinating a town hall meeting later in April for other employees to share their own stories. Hopefully, there won’t be any others. Realistically, this won’t be the case.
“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations. Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation her,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement provided to Intelligencer.