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Case Code: HROB200
Case Length: 20 Pages 
Period: 1996-2018   
Pub Date: 2019
Teaching Note: Available
Organization : Google LLC
Industry :Technology
Countries : United States
Themes: HR Policies/Organizational culture/Workplace harassment/Discrimination/personnel policies
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Forced Arbitration at Google: The End of a Controversial Employment Practice

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Google had an organizational culture that encouraged innovation. The company also emphasized characteristics like openness, excellence, and innovation. The openness characteristic referred to the sharing of information among Google’s employees. The company’s objective was to promote openness and encourage the dissemination of valuable knowledge. Google’s workplace layouts facilitated such interaction. The openness motivated individual employees to communicate and share their ideas. Interaction is viewed as a way of becoming innovative..
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All the employees who joined the company had to sign a document that specified mandatory arbitration. The forced arbitration ensured that the disputes occurring at the workplace would be settled behind closed doors. By signing a contract with the forced arbitration clause, the employees supposedly waived the right to have their cases tried by a jury. Furthermore, employees also gave up the right to appeal and to pursue a class-action lawsuit. The cases of employees, who had signed the forced arbitration clause, were instead heard by an outside party, an arbitrator, who settled the dispute privately...


On October 25, 2018, in response to the NYT report, Pichai and Eileen Naughton, VP of people operations, sent an email to staff admitting the sexual misconduct record in the company. In the email, Pichai announced that the company had fired 48 people over the last two years for sexual harassment, including 13 senior managers and above, and none had received an exit package.


On November 1, 2018, over 20,000 Google employees worldwide participated in the mass walkout, slamming Google’s handling of sexual harassment allegations. In a press release, the organizers of the walkout said: “As Google workers, we were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power.”.


On November 8, 2018, Google addressed a number of demands, notably changing its sexual harassment and misconduct policies. The company put an end to forced arbitration for sexual misconduct allegations. In an email addressed to the employees, Pichai wrote that while Google had ‘never required confidentiality’, employees with harassment or assault claims could now choose whether or not to go through the arbitration process. .


Although the protestors welcomed the changes, they said they would not let up on the other issues. In a press release, Google employee Stephanie Parker said, “They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top. We demand a truly equitable culture and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are Black and Brown women.” ..


Days after Google abandoned its forced arbitration policy, Facebook and Airbnb followed suit. Facebook changed its policy on office dating and required employees who were at a higher level to disclose if they were dating a colleague; earlier, disclosure was required if an employee was dating someone they supervised.


Exhibit I: Forced Arbitration
Exhibit II: Email from Sundar Pichai and Eileen Naughton
Exhibit III: Pichai’s Email ahead of Walkout
Exhibit IV: Organizers’ List of Demands
Exhibit V: Google CEO’s Memo to Employees