Google walkout organizers say they face retaliation from within the company

Joanna Estrada
April 26, 2019

Last November's massive walkout at Google protesting workplace sexual harassment was initially met by some support from the company's top brass.

"In a message sent internally Monday to some Google employees, and obtained by Wired, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton said the company had demoted them in their roles, and forced them to give up some of their duties at work".

Stapleton, a almost 12-year veteran at Google, wrote that two months after the walkout, she was demoted, had a previously approved project cancelled, and was "told to go on medical leave, even though I'm not sick". That's an area of research the employee says she has been working with for years and the latter of those is an institute Ms. Whittaker cofounded at New York University to research AI ethics and bias. "This tells me that behind the mask of playfulness and positivity, Google is just another ruthless business", said Amr Gaber, a Google engineer.

Ms. Stapleton's circumstances are somewhat more complex. "I believe that her work is critical to Google's mission, as an AI-first company [and.] I hope that she will be able to carry on her important work". The hostility of the work environment worsened after she fought back against the demotion, with managers ignoring Ms. Stapleton and reportedly telling her to go for an unneeded medical leave. The manager says that hasn't improved matters much and that she considers leaving her long-held position on a daily basis. Approximately 20,000 employees staged a brief walkout in protest of the behavior and of shortcomings in the company's handling of allegations.

Google employees are known to protest against their parent company, and we have seen instances of that happening when it emerged that Google was helping the military use it AI technology. "Google has a culture of retaliation, which too often works to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities", said the letter.

Employees including Whittaker and Stapleton called for a one-day walkout - which indeed happened, drawing an estimated 20,000 staff across the U.S., Europe, and Asia on November 1, 2018.

Google released a statement in response to inwquiries about the letter, saying, "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", a Google spokesperson told Fox News on Tuesday. Perpetrators often go unimpeded, or are even rewarded (Andy, Amit, "I reported, he got promoted").

According to Whittaker and Stapleton, there will be a "Google Retaliation Town Hall" on April 26 for employees to share stories and strategize.

Last year's Google protests and resignations showed that the company's tech employees are having a hard time working for the beleaguered company.

Ms Stapleton claimed that 350 stories were collected from the walkout past year, which highlighted that "people who stand up and report discrimination, abuse, and unethical conduct are punished, sidelined and pushed out".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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