48 former Google employees were fired from the company due to sexual harassment. This figure has come directly from Google by way of an email that’s been sent out on behalf of the company confirming the various instances of employee termination. In the email (available to view in full via The Verge), Google does not disclose the identities of the employees but did confirm that of the forty-eight, thirteen of them were “senior managers and above.” Adding to this, the number noted only represented those who had been fired in the last two years alone. Google did not provide any additional information on how many, if any had been fired previous to this two-year time-frame.
The email, understood to have been sent out to Google employees was jointly penned by the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai and Vice President of People Operations, Eileen Naughton, and seemed to be in direct response to an article published today which drew attention to various alleged sexual harassment and misconduct claims that were said to have taken place by high-level Google executives over the years. Although the email neither confirms or denies the allegations made.
Background: Earlier today, the New York Times published a lengthy piece which primarily focused on misconduct claims made against Andy Rubin, the so-called 'father of Android' and how actions taken by the company including paying Rubin an “unusually generous sum” amounted to a cover-up of the situation - according to the report. However, the piece went into far more detail than just Rubin’s alleged instance by drawing on two other occasions where actions taken and monies paid by the company seemed to indicate a pattern of behavior when it comes to dealing with internal claims of sexual harassment within Google. Especially considering all three of the people mentioned in the report were high-level employees, heading up departments including Android, X (formerly Google X) and Search - the latter of which was already public knowledge having been widely reported on in 2017 due to the executive in question having to be let go from Uber once the alleged claims had been made public.
While the email sent out by Google directly references the NYT piece and stating how it was “difficult to read,” neither Pichai or Naughton specifically mention any of the original allegations. By the same token, neither email author seems to have denied the allegations either. Instead the email's contents seems to largely bypass those aspects in favor of focusing on the last two years and how the company has made changes to create a better working environment in general, as well as highlighting that there are now various ways in which employees can report similar experiences. The email is also quick to point out that those fired within the said time-frame did not receive “an exit package.” Which contrasts greatly with a point reiterated in the original article which suggests severance packages were ‘part and parcel' in how Google handled previous issues. Another contradiction between the two viewpoints is the suggestion the previous instances did not result in actual terminations in the traditional sense, but instead Google was said to have constructed situations where the high-level employee in question were able to leave of their own accord.
Impact: The speed at which this email has been sent out to Google employees is extremely telling and highlights the importance of the claims made in the original article. Likewise, and in spite of Google having yet to make a public statement on the matter, either to the media or through its PR outlets, opting instead to email employees directly is likely to be an attempt to reassure those who currently work for the company that thing’s have changed. At least, that’s what the contents of the email suggests as Pichai and Naughton highlight what’s different now at Google compared to before with a focus on new measures that have been introduced over the years to ensure “Google is a workplace where you can feel safe.”
As this information is now public, it stands to reason a similar announcement or company posting will be made in the coming days reiterating many of the same points. As it would seem unlikely Google would not want to ensure this does not further impact on the company's image going forward. Which is a point to note as from a wider perspective, Google has been on the receiving end of a number of news reports recently which are likely to be viewed negatively by the company and the general public. These include antitrust issues in Europe and a significant data breach through the company’s Google+ service which forced the company to announce the shutting of the service last month. As a result, these latest allegations and suggestions Google had actively attempted to cover-up sexual harassment claims in the past to protect the public image of the company, are unlikely to help when it comes to projecting a positive image.
What remains unclear is whether or not anyone on behalf of Google will make any statements regarding the initial report and claims made. As these are of a very serious nature and involve people who at the time were central to the Google business. This is even more of a concern considering Google’s alleged actions raise additional concerns on their own and outside of the suggestions the company cultivated an environment where high-ranking employees were exempt from punishment for actions the same people noted today by Google have encountered. Adding to this, even the confirmed 48 number could be used by some to suggest that although Google is now proactively taking measures to ensure people do not remain in positions of authority following credible claims of abuse of power, the wider issue of sexual harassment in the workplace at Google is still prevalent.
Since the publishing of the original email on behalf of Google. Alphabet, the parent company of Google has announced its third-quarter financial results citing $33.7 billion in revenue for the quarter. A figure that is understood to have missed Wall Street expectations.