Alphabet Board Dismisses Sexual Harassment, Diversity Proposals

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Board of directors rejects all shareholder proposals to tackle a range of issues for Google’s workforce

Alphabet’s board of directors seem to be a collision course with many Google employees after they rejected all shareholders proposals to tackle workforce issues.

At Alphabet’s annual shareholder meeting, the board rejected all proposals to do with sexual harassment, antitrust issues and diversity policies, despite hundreds of employees protesting outside the event.

Google employees are not afraid to speak out about what they feel are ongoing problems at the search engine giant. In April staff activists at Google held a “town hall” meeting where they alleged that Google regularly retaliates against employees who speak out.

Board refusal

Over the past year Google has been facing a perfect storm of sexual harassment claims, discrimination claims, concerns over its China ambitions, and concerns about the ethic use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

Now according to the Guardian newspaper, the board of directors voted down all 13 proposals shareholders had put forward, which encompassed a wide range of social concerns surrounding the company. They included efforts to change employment practices and end forced arbitration.

It also dismissed demands from contractors at Verily, a research organisation owned by Alphabet and staffed largely by temporary workers, who questioned as to why they were not granted the same rights as full time staff.

The Alphabet board also reportedly voted down a proposal that would require the company to employ “equitable employment practices”.

Staff concerns

There have been reports of many concerns among Google staffers for a while now at businesses practices at the firm.

Last November for example Google staffers signed an open staff letter calling on the search giant to abandon attempts to create censored search app for the Chinese market.

Google staff has also resigned over the use of Google AI in a Pentagon drone project (Project Maven), which they felt clashed with Google’s “don’t be evil” ethos.

Such was the backlash that in June 2018 Google pledged to end the project, and it told its staff that it would not renew its contract with the US Department of Defence when it expired in 2019.

Sexual harassment

But perhaps the most visible sign of internal tensions within Google came last November when 20,000 Google staff around the world staged a mass walkout to protest at the lenient treatment and payouts for executives accused of sexual harassment.

Google for its part changed its forced arbitration clause for sexual harassment claims by full time employees last November.

But some Google staffers still have concerns, as evidenced by a New York Times article last year that alleged that Google had protected three senior executives from allegations of sexual misconduct, which allegedly included the father of Android Andy Rubin.

Rubin stepped down from his position as Android boss in 2013, and eventually left Google altogether in October 2014.

Rubin however denied the sexual misconduct allegations and said that the New York Times story contained ‘numerous inaccuracies,’ and wild exaggerations about his compensation.

But matters were not helped in March 2019, when court documents revealed a very senior Google executive had been paid a huge amount of money as part of a controversial severance package.

Amit Singhal was reportedly paid as much as $45m according to some media reports, after he was allegedly forced to resign from the search engine giant, after a sexual assault investigation.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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