Hundreds of Google staffers joined a coordinated effort Thursday to protest the internet giant’s handling of sexual-harassment complaints against high-level execs.
The walkouts were prompted by a New York Times report last week, which detailed how Google shielded key male executives and even rewarded them following sexual-misconduct investigations. Those included Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, who received $90 million in severance after he was asked to resign over allegations he coerced an employee to perform oral sex on him, according to the Times report.
Employees in London, Dublin, Berlin, Zurich, India, Singapore and Tokyo staged protests Thursday starting at about 11:10 a.m. local time, according to reports. Other Google workers are expected to follow suit in the U.S. and Canada later on Thursday. The protests extended to social media, where the hashtag #googlewalkout was trending Thursday morning on Twitter.
Organizers of the protest, dubbed Google Walkout for Real Change, said they expected more than 1,500 employees worldwide to join the protest, the New York Times reported. Employees have called on Google CEO Sundar Pichai and co-founder Larry Page to end forced private arbitration in cases of sexual assault and harassment.
Pichai, in a statement to CNN, said he supported the employees’ right to stage the walkouts.
“We let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” Pichai said in the statement. “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.”
Google employees who participated in the walkouts held signs with messages including “Workers Rights Are Human Rights,” “Not OK Google,” “Don’t Be Evil!” and “What do I do at Google? I worked hard every day so the company can afford $90,000,000 payouts to execs who harass my coworkers.”
Last week, Pichai and Google HR chief Eileen Naughton sent a company-wide email saying Google terminated 48 employees for sexual misconduct in the last two years. Of those, 13 were “senior managers and above” and none got an exit package, according to their memo.
Rubin, who after leaving Google in 2014 founded devices startup Essential, responded to the Times report in an Oct. 25 tweet, saying in part, “The New York Times story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation. Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room. These false allegations are part of a smear campaign to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle.”
Meanwhile, another top Alphabet exec identified in the Times report as having made unwanted sexual overtures to a woman applying for a job at the company — Rich DeVaul, who headed the Google X division responsible for Alphabet’s “moonshots” projects like Waymo and Google Glass — resigned earlier this week, per an Axios report. DeVaul didn’t receive a severance payment. (In a statement to the Times, DeVaul apologized for “an error in judgment.”)
According to the Google Walkout for Real Change account on Twitter, protesting employees planned to leave fliers on their desks with this message: “Hi. I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out in solidarity with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone. I’ll be back at my desk later.”
Pictured above: Google employees in New York walk off the job to protest the internet company’s treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.