More than 500 Google employees in Mountain View walked out of the company’s headquarters Thursday afternoon, joined by thousands across the globe in a protest to hold sexual harassers accountable in the workplace.
Organizer Celie O’Neil-Hart yelled, “Time’s Up in Tech!” as she read a list of demands for Google executives, including a better reporting process for sexual abuse, equal opportunities for all demographics, a public sexual assault transparency report and an end to forced arbitration, which forces employees to waive their right to sue.
The walkout was designed to support victims of abuse at the company, including those who did not speak today due to fear of retaliation or fresh emotional wounds.
Oralia Alvarado, 27, began working at Google about five years ago as a barista. During that time, Alvarado said she saw cafeteria workers commonly subjected to harassment due to their perceived lower rank.
A man once told Alvarado to lick her lips for him because her lipstick was beautiful, but she said she didn’t feel validated until a male employee expressed his shock at the interaction.
Another woman, Nancy, described a company gathering at Google-owned YouTube where she lost her memory after a male coworker asked to switch drinks. She said another colleague saw her being “dragged away by the hand” and helped her. Her manager later told her the coworker could be fired immediately, as long as he held a less important role on the team than her.
Both women hoped telling their story would galvanize victims of abuse, as well as their allies.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees earlier this week the company was aware of the protest and participants would receive support.
Pichai said in a statement:
“Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. … We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
Google came under fire after a New York Times report on Oct. 25 revealed a $90 million payout for an employee who had been accused of sexual harassment. Speakers said today the company was in the habit of protecting itself from legal action by in turn protecting accusers. One man held a sign that said, “Happy to Quit for $90 million, no sexual harassment required.”
After the report surfaced, women at the company organized the protest in about five days. Offices in Singapore began the protest at 11:10 a.m., with other protests happening at offices around the world.
“We chose 11, one, or 11:10, because we believe that one story is too many and we’ve heard thousands as part of this movement.”
O’Neil-Hart explained that the movement began on internal channels, but quickly grew to more than 60 percent of Google offices across the world.
The protest in Mountain View today ended with a roaring chant of “Time is Up!” following on the heels of similar movements against perpetrators of abuse in Hollywood and other industries.