Thousands of Google employees have staged walkouts in offices around the world in protest at the company's alleged protection of senior employees accused of sexual harassment and assault.
Staff in London, Zurich, Dublin, Haifa, Tokyo, Singapore and its Silicon Valley headquarters arranged protests backed by management, after a post on Google's internal social network suggesting a "women's walk" gained hundreds of votes.
More than a thousand employees at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, carrying signs that said “Stand up for Google women” and “Act now for our future”. Staff chanted “Women’s rights are workers’ rights”, and “Not OK, Google!”
Hundreds of employees at its San Francisco office walked out, holding signs with “Don’t Be Evil”, a company motto, printed on it. Meirav Rotsten, an employee, said: “We’re here to collectively stand up and say ‘No, no more, not here’.”
Workers took to a makeshift stage to share stories of harassment they claimed to have experienced at Google. One app developer said that she would never encourage children to think about a job in technology, likening it to “sending lambs to the slaughter”.
Cathay Bi, one of the march’s organisers, said: “I experienced sexual harassment at Google [and] I did not feel safe talking about it. That feeling of not being safe is why we are here today.
A Google employee who helped organise the event said: “Boy did I underestimate how big this was going to be.”
The protests were sparked by reports last week that a senior executive, Andy Rubin, received a $90 million (£70 million) pay-off when he left Google in 2014 following a sexual harassment claim. Mr Rubin has called the reports “false allegations”.
Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, revealed last week that 48 employees had been fired for sexual harassment in the last two years. This week he sent an email to all employees apologising for the company's actions, promising to take a "much harder line" in future and giving the protest his blessing.
Outside Google's London headquarters, only around two dozen employees came outside, saying protest organisers had told them to hold their walkout in a conference room inside due to the "inclement weather".
Sam Dutton, a developer, said: "There is a big crowd inside. People are talking internally about the issues. We are supporting anyone anywhere that has been harassed in the workplace. There is a feeling everywhere that any kind of harassment in the workplace is completely unacceptable.
"Things have changed a lot. I've been working for 40 years in offices in the past, and I know that a lot of things were swept under the carpet," Mr Dutton said. "There is a change in mood which is a good thing. I think bosses are listening. How we make changes that have a real effect is more complex, it's a longer project."
The group of workers who organised the walkout, called Google Walkout For Real Change, said they had five demands for the company.
They are demanding that Google end pay inequality and come clean about the number of harassment claims at the company. They said they wanted Google to end a policy of forced arbitration, which prohibits staff from suing in harassment cases, and to appoint an employee representative to its board.
In an announcement titled “Time’s Up at Google”, they said: “While Google has championed the language of diversity and inclusion, substantive actions to address systemic racism, increase equity, and stop sexual harassment have been few and far between."
Richard DeVaul, a director at Google's sister company X, resigned on Tuesday. DeVaul had been accused of multiple incidents of harassment, including improper conduct with a job applicant. He apologised for an “error in judgement”.
Mr Pichai said: “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
The New York Times reported last week that Google had allowed senior executives who were subject to "credible" allegations to leave quietly with massive severance payouts and agreements not to work for Google's competitors.
It said Andy Rubin, the inventor of Android, who left Google in 2014, had conducted an affair with a fellow employee who then accused her of coercing her into sex in a hotel room.
Divorce papers filed by Mr Rubin’s ex-wife Rie Rubin, whom he met at Google, reveal that the 55-year-old's net worth has increased to about $350m since leaving Google. Ms Rubin claimed Mr Rubin had multiple "ownership relationships" with other women while they were married, and paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The storm over sexual harassment follows a string of internal disputes at Google, whose longtime motto is "don't be evil".
In April, more than 3,000 Google employees signed a petition against the company's involvement with a US Department of Defence AI project that studies imagery that could be used for better targeting of air strikes.
Then, in September, Google confirmed that it was working on a search engine for use in China, which leaked documents had suggested would allow government censorship and tracking of citizens.