Just days after Google agreed to a new set of rules designed to clean up its internal culture, including an end to forced arbitration, other tech companies have begun following its lead.
Airbnb, Facebook, and eBay have all ended mandatory arbitration for employee claims of sexual harassment. “We’re proud that these changes will allow employees to choose how to resolve their concerns and believe this is the right thing to do for our employee community,” Airbnb wrote in a statement.
Forced arbitration requires victims and accusers to settle disputes behind closed doors, with a third-party arbiter delivering the final reckoning. Civil suits are subject to forced arbitration, although criminal cases are not; earlier this year, Gizmodo offered an extensive breakdown of which tech firms forced employees into arbitration, including an excerpt of Google’s forced-arbitration clause.
Google initiated its latest rules in response to a massive workplace walkout to protest inequality and sexual harassment. Employees wanted the company to enact several changes, including the termination of forced arbitration and a clear, uniform process for reporting sexual harassment.
While Google didn’t explicitly agree to all demands (it didn’t commit to ending pay and opportunity inequality, for example), Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees (subsequently released on its corporate blog) that he was listening, and that the company would take concrete steps.
“We will recommit to our company-wide OKR around diversity, equity and inclusion again in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone,” Pichai promised. “Our Chief Diversity Officer will continue to provide monthly progress updates to me and my leadership team.” (‘OKR’ stands for ‘Objectives and Key Results,’ and it’s a system that Google uses to measure its progress.)
As one of tech’s largest companies, Google is capable of swaying the industry—and that’s clearly happened here, given the rapidity with which other firms have decided to alter longtime arbitration policies. Will those companies embrace the other policies that Google has agreed to?