Google announced on Thursday that it will phase out the mandatory arbitration process that employees had to go through to solve internal disputes with the company. The change will go into effect on March 21 and it will affect both current and future employees. Google also said that the mandatory arbitration will be removed from all its employment agreements with contract and temporary staff. The news comes barely two months after Google employees around the world walked out from their offices to protest the way the company had handled sexual harassment claims in the past. During the walkout, protesters wanted the search giant to end mandatory arbitration in cases of discrimination and sexual harassment.
Google immediately dropped arbitration requirements for sexual harassment claims after the protest. Although the move was welcomed, the protesters felt that the change didn’t do much to address the real issue they were raising. It seems the tech giant has now decided to go further and remove the mandatory process entirely. Google employees were happy with the decision. They said that it wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t joined hands and demanded action from their employer.
It’s also important to note that while the directive now applies to all Google employees, temporary workers who are hired through staffing agencies are not covered. The search engine company said that it doesn’t have control over the contracts that these workers sign with their staffing agencies. Mandatory arbitration prevents employees from taking their employers to court when a complaint has been filed internally. Campaigners who were calling for the removal of this process noted that it affects nearly 60 million employees in the US alone.
Google’s decision follows other tech giants that have also made strides in scraping the process. For instance, Uber confirmed in May last year that it had removed mandatory arbitration agreements with riders, drivers and staff. The ride-hailing service also confirmed that it was ending confidentiality provisions that prevented victims of sexual harassment or discrimination at the company from speaking out. Facebook also announced in November last year that it would no longer force its staff to settle cases of sexual harassment through private arbitration.
Google had come under pressure from its employees to follow suit. In fact, there was a social media campaign titled “End Forced Arbitration” that was launched in January this year. The campaign was specifically designed to push the search engine giant to remove the mandatory arbitration process. It was organized and spearheaded by Google employees. However, the group was joined by employees from other companies as well.
In a statement released after the arbitration process was removed at Google, the group said that it’s happy with the progress but it won’t end there. It noted that there are still other companies in and outside the tech industry that still have forced arbitration and as such, more pressure is needed to ensure that this process is scrapped completely in the future. Google’s decision was bold but it was largely expected. The company has had to deal with explosive cases of sexual abuse involving top executives and junior employees at the company in recent months.