Google today pledged a sweeping overhaul its sexual harassment policies after thousands of its employees staged a massive global protest last week.

CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to all employees, saying the company would provide greater transparency in how Google handles allegations, better support for those who make complaints and a renewed commitment to a respectful workplace.

“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Pichai said in the email (read it below). “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Some 20,000 Googlers walked out of their offices last Thursday to protest revelations contained in a New York Times investigation, which reported that the company had shielded senior executives accused of misconduct, and in some cases paid them lucrative exit packages.

The employees demanded changes in how the company handles such allegations.

In a memo outlining specific changes, Google said it would make arbitration optional in cases involving sexual harassment and assault claims. The company said it never “required” confidentiality, but “it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy).” Now, the choice is up to the employee.

Google said it would begin reporting of substantiated or partially substantiated claims and actions taken.

The company said it would provide better support for employees reporting alleged misconduct, including extended counseling, leaves of absence and the ability to bring a companion during an HR investigation or when initially raising concerns with human resources.

Google said all employees would be required to complete sexual harassment training each year (previously it had been every two years). Those who fail to do so will be penalized on their performance reviews. The company also said it would crack down on excessive alcohol consumption at work or at corporate events.

“Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse,” Google notes. “But one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking (~20% of cases). Our policy is clear: Excessive consumption of alcohol is not permitted when you are at work, performing Google business, or attending a Google-related event, whether onsite or offsite.”

The company said it would re-commit to its diversity and inclusion goals, requiring a diverse slate of candidates interviewed for new or vacated positions at the director level or higher.

Here’s Pichai’s email:

Hi everyone,

At Google we try hard to build a workplace that supports our employees and empowers them to do their best work. As CEO, I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making the changes we need to improve. Over the past few weeks Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared.

We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes.

Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We’ll give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace.

Today, we’re announcing a comprehensive action plan to make progress. It’s detailed hereand I encourage everyone to read it. Here are some of the key changes:

  • We will make arbitration optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you.
  • We will provide more granularity around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes at the company as part of our Investigations Report.
  • We’re revamping the way we handle and look into your concerns in three ways: We’re overhauling our reporting channels by bringing them together on one dedicated site and including live support. We will enhance the processes we use to handle concerns—including the ability for Googlers to be accompanied by a support person. And we will offer extra care and resources for Googlers during and after the process. This includes extended counseling and career support,
  • We will update and expand our mandatory sexual harassment training. From now on if you don’t complete your training, you’ll receive a one-rating dock in Perf (editor’s note: Perf is our performance review system).
  • We will recommit to our company-wide OKR around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone. Our Chief Diversity Officer will continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team.

I hope you’ll take the time to read the full range of actions we’re announcing today.

 

Thank you all for the feedback you’ve shared with us. This is an area where we need to continually make progress and are committed to doing so. We often hear from Googlers that the best part of working here is other Googlers. Even in difficult times, we are encouraged by the commitment of our colleagues to create a better workplace. That’s come through very strongly over the past few weeks.

 

-Sundar