Google walkout protest organisers face retaliation within the company
Last year, when a report stating that Google had shielded its executives accused of sexual harassment stormed the internet, seven of the company's employees helped organise a company-wide walkout protest urging the company to end forced arbitration, a practice that prohibits employees from filing a lawsuit against an organisation in the event of an injustice, in sexual harassment cases. Now two of those seven employees have reported that they are facing retaliation from the company for staging the protest that saw nearly 20,000 Google staffers walking out from their offices located across the globe including Singapore, Hyderabad, Zurich, Berlin, London, Seattle, and Chicago.
According to a report by The Wired, Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker in internal emails circulated within Google said that they helped organise the walkout protest and now they are paying the price for the same.
Whittaker, who leads Google's Open Research division said that after the tech giant disbanded its AI ethics council, she was informed that her role would change dramatically. She was told that if wants to remain in the company she would have the leave her work on AI ethics and the AI Now Institute, which she cofounded.
Stapleton, who is more of a Google veteran for having worked in the Mountain View, California headquarted company for nearly 12 years, said that two months after the protest she was told that she would be demoted and that she would lose half her reports. When she escalated the matter to the HR and her VP, matters got worse. "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," she wrote in the email accessed by the publication.
It was only after she had her lawyer contact the company that Google's management conducted an investigation and restored her position. In her letter she said that while her work responsibilities have been restore, the environment remains hostile.
Together, Whittaker and Stapleton, are organising a retaliation townhall on Friday, April 26 to share and discuss their stories of retaliation.
Google in its statement, on the other hand, has denied all reports of workplace retaliation. "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 here," a Google spokesperson told the publication in a statement.