Apr 23, 2019

Google walkout leaders claim they have faced company retribution

Ina Fried, author of Login

Google employees protest the company's handling of sexual misconduct claims in November 2018. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Two leaders of the 2018 employee walkout at Google over sexual harassment claims say they have faced retaliation for their activism, a charge Google is denying.

What's happening: According to Wired, Meredith Whittaker was told that her role would be "changed dramatically" following uproar around a since-disbanded external AI ethics board. Whittaker, who leads Google's open research efforts, also helps run the AI Now Institute, which she co-founded at NYU.

  • Meanwhile, 12-year Google veteran Claire Stapleton also told Wired she was demoted from her position as a YouTube marketing manager.

What they're saying:

  • Whittaker said in a tweet: "I remain staunchly committed to my work @AINowInstitute. Google's retaliation isn't about me, or (Stapleton). It's about silencing dissent & making us afraid to speak honestly about tech & power. NOT OK. Now more than ever, it's time to speak up."
  • Stapleton told Wired: "My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick. ... While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.”
  • Google said it prohibits retaliation in the workplace and investigates all allegations. "Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs," Google said. "There has been no retaliation here."

The bottom line: Whatever is the reasoning for the shifts, it's not a good look for Google, which previously touted its support for the employees taking part in the walkout.

Go deeper: Read the Google staff's demands during their November walkout

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