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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

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with first lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.