Google says it fired 48 people for sexual harassment in a two-year period

26 Oct 2018

Sundar Pichai. Image: Nguyen Hung Vu/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai says the company has been taking a stricter approach when it comes to sexual harassment.

The #MeToo movement has shed a light on the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and in general over the last year, and the tech industry is no exception. Yesterday (25 October), The New York Times reported that former Google executive Andy Rubin, creator of the Android OS, received a $90m severance package after the company fired him in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations in 2014.

A spokesperson for Rubin said he left the company of his own accord and disputed he had been informed of any inappropriate behaviour at Google. Sam Singer said that Rubin parted ways with the company to launch a VC firm, as well as a technology incubator called Playground.

A difficult story

Following the publication of the story, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and vice-president of people operations, Eileen Naughton, wrote an email to employees, describing the piece as “difficult to read”.

Pichai said that the company was “dead serious” about providing “a safe and inclusive workplace”. The letter stated that 48 people, including 13 senior managers, have been sacked because of sexual harassment claims since 2016.

“We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action,” Pichai said. None of the dismissed staff received an exit package.

Google harassment issues

The original New York Times report said an employee had made allegations about an incident involving Rubin in a hotel room in 2013. Following the allegation, Rubin was asked to resign by then CEO Larry Page.

The newspaper cites court documents and interviews claiming that Rubin was one of three senior executives that Google allegedly shielded over the past decade, as complaints about inappropriate behaviour swirled. A Google investigation found that the woman who complained about the Android creator had a credible story.

The letter from Pichai and Naughton stressed the availability of confidential reporting channels for affected employees. “Because we know that reporting harassment can be traumatic, we provide confidential channels to share any inappropriate behaviour you experience or see.

“We support and respect those who have spoken out. You can find many ways to do this … You can make a report anonymously if you wish.”

Sundar Pichai. Image: Nguyen Hung Vu/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects