Google Employee Removal: How US employers are silencing the villains


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Underlying mediaThe staff leave some of Google's US offices to treat women

Hundreds of Google executives around the world have fled to protest sexual harassment and unequal pay for women.

One of their main demands is to ensure that women can settle claims of unreasonable attitudes in the courts, but why can not many already do so?

A female Google employee is harassed.

She complains to her boss.

He passes an internal hearing complaints, then an arbitration process and loses.

But if she wants to go public with her claims before a court, she can not.

Google is one of the many companies that sign agreements with forced arbitration, which requires that all cases of discrimination – not just sexual harassment, but also racism and equal wage pay – are solved internally without judicial supervision.

  • Google's staff is going through women's treatment

It means they can not sue their superiors if they are not satisfied with this result.

A well-publicized example of this was when Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson first filed a complaint about sexual harassment on the network. He said former ex-boss Roger Eiley asked her about sexual favors. When she denied her advances, she says her pay was cut and later fired.

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London employees were involved in starting Google

Carlson's contract with Fox News included a forced arbitration clause, which means she could not settle the case in court.

But he took it around by denying Ailes directly for violating human rights law.

Mrs Carlson won $ 20 million and Ailes, who died earlier this year, apologized. Her case encouraged other women in the network to make claims.

It is unclear how much the vacuum has got because a confidentiality agreement limits what Mrs Carlson can say about this. However, her case underlines the secrecy that claims of sexual harassment can be covered.

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Gretchen Carlson attends the 2018 Vanity Fair after the Academy Awards

The #MeToo moment may have made it easier for women to share their experiences, but many argue that not much has been done to change the law.

More than half (53.9%) US employers have enforced arbitration procedures, according to the Washington Institute of Economic Policy. For larger businesses, with more than 1,000 employees, the figure is even higher at 65.1%.

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Reuters

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Google headquarters in Mountain View, California

With their calculations, this means that more than 60.1 million US workers (men and women) can not go to court to protect their labor rights.

Their research indicates that this happens more often in low-wage workplaces and those with a disproportionate number of women or African-American workers. He also says that practice is more prevalent in Texas, North Carolina and California – where Google is headquartered.

Protests outside the technology giant's offices reflect a growing rage for forced arbitration, which has already forced some big American companies to change course.

Earlier this year, both Uber and Lyft broke out mandatory arbitration and confidentiality agreements to settle claims of sexual harassment. Defendants working for both companies are now free to pursue public lawsuits.

Prior to that, in December, Microsoft also dissolved the forced arbitration clauses.

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"The silence of people's voices clearly had an impact on perpetuating sexual harassment," said Brad Smith, the company's president and chief lawyer, at the New York Times at the time.

Microsoft is a company that supports a change in law so that defendants can bring their case to court.

A party bill, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act (EFASHA), was presented to Congress last year.

The bill, as its title suggests, will make it unlawful for companies to impose mandatory arbitration agreements for sexual harassment and discrimination claims, such as equal pay issues.

"If EFASHA enters into force, it will not just change the game – it will be a global changer for companies using arbitration contracts," says Dimitris Economou, lawyer at his blog, Labor Law.

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Twitter / Googlewalkout

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This brochure was left at Google's employees' offices choosing to participate in concerted action

Another bill before Congress would oblige companies to reveal the number of settlements made with workers in relation to gender discrimination requirements, including verbal and physical sexual harassment.

It is not clear if any of these accounts will have enough support in Congress and even if they did, if the president would sign them.

Some states are now starting to make changes after #MeToo.

A number have passed laws that restrict secrecy around these cases – so-called non-disclosure agreements – that prevent people from publicly speaking about claims for sexual harassment or payments.

  • NDA: What are non-disclosure agreements?
  • When is an NDA not an NDA?

California passed a series of laws after # MeToo, including the Law on Non-Disclosure Law, and Arizona now bans non-disclosure agreements for settlements with public officials charged with sexual assault.

The states of Vermont, Washington, Tennessee, New York and Maryland also have similar laws requiring transparency around instances of harassment.

Of course, anyone with a serious criminal complaint for sexual assault can always go to the police, but restoring sexual harassment remains challenging.

Workers who have gone to Google are hoping to be able to shine the issue and push for greater transparency.

Months from the beginning of #MeToo moment there are more voices with the confidence to share their stories.

But for many of them not only to be heard, it is the ability to sound fair.

Follow Rajini Vaidyanathan on Twitter – @BBCRajiniv