Employees are speaking out against Alphabet, Google’s parent company, arguing the tech giant must do more to protect employees from workplace harassment.
An open letter addressed to Google (GOOG) and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, published online on Friday, made two demands: the company stop those who are found to have harassed other employees from managing anyone and the company move anyone who has been found to have harassed others to another team. As of Friday afternoon, it appeared to have been signed by more than 1,000 company employees.
“Alphabet workers deserve the right to work in an environment free from their abusers,” the letter said. “Alphabet must prioritize the safety of their workers by prioritizing the concerns of those harmed.”
Andrew Gainer-Dewar, a software engineer at Google and member of and spokesperson for the Alphabet Workers Union, a grassroots workers organization that launched in January and formed without federal ratification, said the letter was written and distributed by a group of Google employees.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the company is “deeply aware of the importance of this issue,” and that it works to support and protect employees who report concerns, investigates these reports, and takes action against “substantiated allegations.”
“We’ve made significant improvements to our overall process, including the way we handle and investigate employee concerns, and introducing new care programs for employees who report concerns,” the statement added.
The letter comes a day after a former Google software engineer, Emi Nietfeld, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times about her experiences with harassment at the company, where she said a man who was in charge of her daily work repeatedly called her “beautiful” and “gorgeous” despite her asking him to stop doing so. Nietfeld, who worked at Google between 2015 and 2018, wrote that for three months after she complained to Google’s human resources department about the behavior, she had to continue meeting with the man one on one and sit next to him. He continued to sit next to Nietfeld after an internal investigation confirmed he violated company policy, she wrote.
Gainer-Dewar said the letter sent out Friday is in response to Nietfeld’s experience, as well as other actions the company has taken in the past when faced with allegations of sexual harassment. In 2018, for instance, an investigation in The New York Times detailed how the company protected three executives accused of sexual misconduct over the previous decade.
If the company determines internally that one employee harassed another, Gainer-Dewar said, stopping the harasser from managing others and moving them to another team “seems very reasonable.”