Google announces mandatory arbitration U-turn

Google employees in Arizona and around the country are no longer required to resolve workplace discrimination and wrongful termination disputes through arbitration. The search engine giant made the announcement in a Feb. 21 press release. Workers will also now be permitted to join together to bring class-action lawsuits against the company. The move comes as Google attempts to repair its relationship with its employees in the wake of scandals that prompted 20,000 workers to protest.

The November protest began after Google workers learned that a senior figure in the company had been offered a lucrative exit package despite being credibly accused of sexual harassment. The protesting workers claimed that Google's forced arbitration policy nurtured a culture of secrecy and allowed the company to keep rampant workplace abuses private. Workers also questioned the impartiality of the arbitration process because the arbitrators appointed to resolve disputes were paid for by Google.

Some observers believe that Google may have made the decision to avoid further government scrutiny. Technology companies have been called before Congressional committees in recent months to answer questions about subjects ranging from privacy breaches to censorship. The timing of the move fueled this speculation because the Feb. 21 press release came just days before lawmakers in both the House and the Senate were due to submit bills that would end forced arbitration for discrimination cases.

Workers who have signed contracts of employment that contain mandatory arbitration clauses may still pursue claims against their employers over issues such as wrongful termination, workplace harassment or sexual discrimination. Attorneys with experience in this area could help workers to prepare for arbitration by assessing the merits of the claim and gathering evidence that could support it.

Source: Wired, "Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Employee Protest", Nitasha Tiku, Feb. 21, 2019

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