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Google workers walked out last year over concerns about how the company handled sexual harassment claims. Photo: BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Google will no longer require current and future employees to take disputes with the company to arbitration, it said Thursday.

The big picture: After protests last year, the search giant ended mandatory arbitration for individual cases of sexual harassment or assault for employees. Employees have called for the practice to end in other cases of harassment and discrimination. Google appears to be meeting that demand for employees — but the change will not apply in the same blanket way to the many contractors, vendors and temporary employees it uses.

Details:

  • The change will take effect March 21. It means that employees will have the option of suing the company over an issue, although they will still be able to pursue arbitration if they prefer.
  • The decision will not open the door to bringing lawsuits over previously-settled claims, the company said. Employees with disputes currently in arbitration who are still employed by the company as of March 21 will be able to choose to sue instead.
  • It follows a review that looked at common practices around arbitration and consultation with outside experts, Google said.
  • The change applies at "other bets" that exist legally under Google — like the X research lab, the DeepMind AI program and the Access broadband unit — but not at other companies owned by Alphabet but separate from the search giant.

Google also said it would remove mandatory arbitration from legal agreements it reaches directly with its contract and temporary workforce.

  • Yes, but: It will not require the firms that employ the contract and temporary workers to make a similar change, although those firms are being told about the shift in case they want to adopt the change. Activists at Google have expressed concern with the way changes in the firm's practices aren't being applied to contractors or temporary employees.

Forced arbitration clauses have been heavily criticized for denying workers the ability to take their employers to court, including over sexual harassment.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
9 mins ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter is a test for the future of space exploration

Ingenuity (left) with Perseverance on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA is set to fly the first test flight of its tiny Ingenuity helicopter on Mars Sunday, marking the advent of drones for space exploration.

Why it matters: If successful, this flight will be the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

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1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

The global future is looking dark and stormy

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

A new 20-year-forecast for the world: increasingly fragmented and turbulent.

The big picture: A major report put out this week by the National Intelligence Council reflects a present rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. How the next two decades will unfold depends largely on whether new technologies will ultimately unite us — or continue to divide us.

10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rep. Gaetz declares he's "not going anywhere" amid sex trafficking probe

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) doubled down Friday night, saying he's not "going anywhere," and vowing, "I have not yet begun to fight," amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations.

What he's saying: “I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” Gaetz, who denies the allegations, said during a Women for America First event at the Trump National Doral Miami resort.