Feb 21, 2019

Under pressure, Google to end mandatory arbitration for employees

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

Updated 7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

CNN crew arrested live on air while reporting on Minneapolis protests

CNN's Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested Friday by Minneapolis state police while reporting on the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city.

What happened: CNN anchors said Jimenez and his crew were arrested for not moving after being told to by police, though the live footage prior to their arrests clearly shows Jimenez talking calmly with police and offering to move wherever necessary.

First look: Trump courts Asian American vote amid coronavirus

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The president's re-election campaign debuts its "Asian Americans for Trump" initiative in a virtual event tonight, courting a slice of the nation's electorate that has experienced a surge in racism and harassment since the pandemic began.

The big question: How receptive will Asian American voters be in this moment? Trump has stoked xenophobia by labeling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" and the "Wuhan virus" and equating Chinatowns in American cities to China itself.

How the U.S. might distribute a coronavirus vaccine

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Now that there are glimmers of hope for a coronavirus vaccine, governments, NGOs and others are hashing out plans for how vaccines could be distributed once they are available — and deciding who will get them first.

Why it matters: Potential game-changer vaccines will be sought after by everyone from global powers to local providers. After securing supplies, part of America's plan is to tap into its military know-how to distribute those COVID-19 vaccines.