Google fires but also protects execs, staff accused of sexual misconduct: report

By @chelean on
Google
The logo of Alphabet Inc's Google outside its office in Beijing, China. Reuters/Thomas Peter/File Photo

Google had fired but also protected its executives accused of sexual misconduct, according to a new report. The Internet giant has allegedly fired 48 people, including 13 senior managers over the last two years.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that when Android mobile software creator Andy Rubin left the company in October 2014, he was given a publicly warm farewell. However, what Google did not tell the public was that Rubin had been forced to resign after being accused of sexual misconduct. The accuser, a woman whom he had allegedly been having an extramarital relationship with, said he coerced her into performing oral sex in a hotel room. Google had investigated the claim and found it was credible, hence his forced resignation.

The company could have just fired him instead of asking him to resign. Google handed him a US$90 million (AU$123 million) exit package. Not only that, Google also allegedly invested millions of dollars in Rubin’s next venture.

Rubin was apparently just one of the three executives that Google had protected over the past years after being accused of sexual misconduct. The publication said it had fired two senior executives but paid them millions of dollars as well.

New York Times wrote its report based on corporate and court documents and former executive and employees’ statements. Google chief executive Sundar Pichai and VP for people orientations Eileen Naughton wrote in an email to employees that they had fired 48 people for sexual harassment over the last two years and that none had received an exit package.

“We investigate and take action, including termination,” Naughton said in a statement, referring to sexual misconduct allegations. “In recent years, we’ve taken a particularly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority. We’re working hard to keep improving how we handle this type of behaviour.”

However, there were employees who didn’t feel Google had been doing enough. Liz Fong-Jones, an engineer for the company, told the publication that the company covered up harassments, contributing to an environment that made people feel unsafe in reporting misconduct.

“They suspect nothing will happen or, worse, that the men will be paid and the women will be pushed aside,” she said.

According to some of those interviewed by the paper, Google was flexible in how it enforced its sexual harassment policy. Some of those who came forward with allegations against executive were apparently not believed. Those whose claims were found credible felt how Google treated their abusers with kid gloves.

One harassment case apparently involved senior VP Amit Singhal, who was accused of groping an employee at an event in 2015. When Google investigated the claim and found it credible, it had accepted Singhal’s resignation instead of firing him. It also negotiated an exit package with him that saw him paid millions.

In response to the story, Pichai said the company took every complaint seriously.

“Today’s story in the New York Times was difficult to read,” he wrote in a letter, seen by nine.com.au. “We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.”