Google staff stage walkout over company's handling of sexual harassment

Google employees walked off the job at the London office, in Granary Square.AP: Stefan Rousseau, PA

Hundreds of Google employees across the world have walked off the job in protest of the internet giant's lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.

Key points: The protest is unfolding a week after a New York Times story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct by Andy Rubin Google boss Sundar Pichai has apologised for the company's "past actions" Google has fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for sexual harassment in recent years

Employees were seen staging walkouts at offices including Tokyo, Singapore, London, Zurich and Dublin.

The Google protest, billed "Walkout For Real Change", is unfolding a week after a New York Times (NYT) story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about the creator of its Android software, Andy Rubin.

The report said Mr Rubin received a $US90 million severance package in 2014, even though Google concluded that sexual misconduct allegations against him were credible.

Mr Rubin derided the NYT story article as inaccurate and denied the allegations in a tweet.

The same report also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct by other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the same Google-affiliated lab that created far-flung projects such as self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons.

Mr DeVaul had remained at the "X'' lab after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him a few years ago, but he resigned on Tuesday without severance, Google confirmed on Wednesday.

Google chief Sundar Pichai apologised for the company's "past actions" in an email sent to employees on Tuesday.

"I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel," Mr Pichai wrote.

"I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. And, yes, here at Google, too."

The email did not mention the reported incidents involving Mr Rubin, Mr DeVaul or anyone else, but Mr Pichai did not dispute anything in the NYT story.

In an email sent last week, Mr Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google's executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure employees that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Mr Rubin's departure four years ago.

Among other things, Mr Pichai and Ms Naughton disclosed that Google had fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for sexual harassment in recent years without providing severance packages.

But Thursday's walkout could signal a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent Alphabet Inc. remained unconvinced the company was doing enough to adhere to Alphabet's own edict urging all employees to "do the right thing".

A Silicon Valley congresswoman tweeted her support of the Google walkout using the "#metoo" hashtag that has become a battle cry for women fighting sexual misconduct across the world.

"Why do they think it's OK to reward perpetrators and further violate victims?" asked Jackie Speier, who represents an affluent district where many of Google's employees live.

AP

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