Google walkout organizers say they face retaliation from within the company

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton were two of the seven Google workers who helped organize the Walkout for Real Change back in November, which saw over 20,000 employees walk out of their offices to protest the way the company addressed sexual harassment allegations against senior executives. The accused were offered golden parachutes: millions of dollars in exit packages.

A week after the walkout, Google announced a comprehensive action plan outlining changes to its sexual harassment policies. But Whittaker and Stapleton say both themselves and “several” other organizers have faced retaliation from within the company for their actions.

Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research, said she was informed that her role would be “changed dramatically” after Google disbanded its external AI ethics council earlier this month. She was told that in order to stay at the company, she would have to “abandon” her work on AI ethics and her role at the AI Now Institute.

Stapleton, meanwhile, said that two months after the protest, she was told she would be demoted from her role as marketing manager at YouTube and lose half her reports. She took her complaints to human resources but that made things 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. Stapleton hired a lawyer and the company reversed her demotion following an investigation, but she says her environment remains hostile and she considers quitting every day.

Wired reports that the revelations were posted in a letter on many internal Google mailing lists yesterday, and that the pair are planning a “town hall” meeting on Friday for others to discuss alleged similar instances. The letter claims over 300 employees have faced retaliation since the walkout.

Google insists that there has been no retaliation, but Whittaker and Stapleton wrote that these types of actions can be carried out in subtle ways.

"Retaliation isn’t always obvious," they wrote. "It’s often confusing and drawn out, consisting of icy conversations, gaslighting, project cancellations, transition rejections, or demotions. Behavior that tells someone the problem isn’t that they stood up to the company, it’s that they’re not good enough and don’t belong."

In response, a Google spokesperson said: “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.”

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brucek

TS Maniac
Protection for whistle blowing does not equal a blanket license to disrupt the operations of a company.

I believe the law should, and does, protect the act of notifying an employer of violations of law or policy.

I do not believe the law should, or does, protect the act of say causing widespread disruption by repeatedly raising controversial issues, staging walk outs, etc. Any size organization doing any kind of meaningful work with any reasonably intelligent and articulate staff is going to generate matters on which people disagree all the time. Part of being able to be an employable team members is being able to handle that productively vs non-productively.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Honestly, if I were these women, I would leave gagme. Maybe they think the fight is worth fighting; however, my bet is that if they look, they will find a welcoming environment elsewhere that may even pay better.

IMO, gagme is only interested in profit, and their attempts at integrity are marketing ploys intended to make them look good while they do nothing that has any true integrity.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Protection for whistle blowing does not equal a blanket license to disrupt the operations of a company.

I believe the law should, and does, protect the act of notifying an employer of violations of law or policy.

I do not believe the law should, or does, protect the act of say causing widespread disruption by repeatedly raising controversial issues, staging walk outs, etc. Any size organization doing any kind of meaningful work with any reasonably intelligent and articulate staff is going to generate matters on which people disagree all the time. Part of being able to be an employable team members is being able to handle that productively vs non-productively.
I believe creating a hostile environment for any employee, even if they have spoken out against company policy, would end up on the shady side of the law. It just might be harassment for which that company may be legally liable.
 

Jackwoz

TS Enthusiast
Lol. Are they shocked that the company that pays their mortgages and pays for their fancy cars may be slightly offended when they cause mass disruption at the company they work for. How are they not surprised this might happen?
 

Andy F

TS Rookie
They're California millennials who think their idealism gives them the right to protest anything, even if it's the hand that feeds them. I'm not defending Google but this is the real world where there are consequences, not fantasy land where employer embarrassment is going to be rewarded.
 
At least they didn't post a scientifically accurate memo outlining the differences between men and women. That would have been a firing offense. Ask #FiredForTruth James Damore.
 

Xaltar

TS Rookie
I see a lot of comments about these people being protected by the law etc. The way I see it, if you bite the hand that feeds you, it will and should blow up in your face. It also does not sound like these individuals have gone back to work with the same ethic they had prior to their VERY public and excessive statement. I am not talking about the subject of their protest or it's validity here but the effect it had on both their place of employment and their coworkers. The fact that they are only now speaking out against retribution within their place of employment tells me it is likely at least partly in their own heads and very likely as a direct result of them acting out at the suspicion of retribution. As usual, I don't get my way so I am going to throw a temper tantrum and force decent, hard working people to have to see this crap on their facebook timelines. Be grateful you still have a job at all, if it were me you pulled this stunt on, right or wrong, your *** would be out looking for a new job, probably in another country because I would make damn sure everyone knew not to employ such a disruptive element.

I hate google, I despise corporations in general but in this case, I also despise people that act out and actually think there won't be consequences. IMO, they should have ALL been fired, all 20000+ of them. Google should then have altered the policy and taken the PR hit. Unfortunately, the US protects this kind of nonsense. There are other ways to make a stink and force change that do not disrupt business, in other countries this kind of antic is a LAST resort, not the first thing to come to mind and when it does happen, all those participating fully expect not to have a job the next day but are hoping if enough of them join in, the company in question won't be able to afford to lose them all. In addition, they take great pains to keep the organizers identities secret because if found out they WOULD be fired and possibly even have legal action taken against them. So when I see this happen outside the US, I can praise the bravery of those involved, inside the US, I just roll my eyes and scroll down.
 
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