A shareholder sued the board of Google Inc.’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., in San Mateo County Superior Court Thursday for allegedly tolerating and covering up sexual harassment by senior executives and giving some of them millions of dollars in exit pay.
The lawsuit by stockholder James Martin also names as defendants former senior executives Andy Rubin, who left the company with a $90 million severance package in 2014, and Amit Singhal, who resigned in 2015, allegedly with a multimillion-dollar exit payment.
The suit contends that Google found claims of sexual harassment against both men to be credible, but the board violated its duty to the company and wasted corporate money by “disregarding, covering up and rewarding the malfeasance of its senior executives.”
The lawsuit asks for court orders requiring changes in Google’s procedures and financial restitution to the company from Rubin, Singhal and board members.
Mountain View-based Google had no immediate comment.
Rubin developed the Android operating system and in 2005 sold his Android startup to Google and joined the company. The lawsuit alleges he pressured a woman who worked on his team to engage in a sexual encounter in 2013 and was found to have sex bondage videos on his work computer.
The suit says the board found the harassment allegations to be credible, but allowed Rubin to resign quietly with the $90 million severance package to “ensure his silence” and avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit that would have resulted in negative publicity about alleged harassment within the company.
After the New York Times published an article in October that said Rubin and others accused of misconduct were given millions of dollars in exit pay, thousands of Google workers around the world walked off the job on Nov. 1 in protest.
Several days later, Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised changes and told employees:
“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that.”
The lawsuit alleges that the board implicitly maintained a double-standard policy for workers.
The lawsuit claims:
“If you were a high-level male executive at Google responsible for generating millions of dollars in revenue, Google would let you engage in sexual harassment. And if you get caught, Google would keep it quiet, let you resign and pay you millions of dollars in severance … On the other hand, if you were a low-level employee at Google and were accused of sexual harassment or discrimination, you would be fired for cause with no severance benefits.”
The board members named in the lawsuit include Pichai, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Alphabet’s former executive board chairman Eric Schmidt.