NARRATION: After the #MeToo movement swept through Hollywood, it eventually made its way to Silicon Valley. But more than a year after thousands of Google employees walked out of the job in protest, what kind of change has actually taken place? And has it been lasting change?
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 11-2-18):
ANCHOR: Google employees around the world staging a walkout Thursday to protest a workplace culture they say has turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and discrimination.
TANUJA GUPTA (GOOGLERS FOR ENDING FORCED ARBITRATION): The Google walkout was 20,000 workers all leaving their desks one day because they were frustrated by the level of sexual harassment, discrimination and inequity in the workplace, and it was a way to say to our company, we don’t accept this anymore.
NARRATION: The walkout was organized just days after news came out of sexual misconduct at the company.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-1-18):
ANCHOR: Google paid millions of dollars in exit packages to Andy Rubin and other male executives accused of misconduct.
TANUJA GUPTA: And it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back at that point. It had been building. I think if you were outside our company, it may have felt sudden. But if you were inside the company, it felt like it had been growing and growing. Tons of experiences of women and men led to that walkout, facing discrimination, microaggressions, workplace harassments. And time is literally up. Enough is enough. We have to fight this.
NARRATION: They pushed Google to address sexual harassment as well as pay disparities and a lack of opportunity based on gender and race.
And they also wanted to end forced arbitration — it’s a policy that usually takes up a sentence or two in employee contracts, but essentially prevents workers from taking their companies to court.
TANUJA GUPTA: Who’s picking the arbitrator? Who’s paying the arbitrator? What types of claims are you allowed to seek out in arbitration for? All of that is set by one party, not the employee.
If we want to address any kind of workplace harassment or discrimination or wrongful termination or wage theft, you have to know the scope of the problem. And with forced arbitration, you don’t know that. You don’t know how many people are actually affected because the data isn’t public.
NARRATION: A week after the walkout, Google announced it would end forced arbitration, but only in cases of sexual assault and harassment. A few months later, they expanded the policy to all workplace issues.
TANUJA GUPTA: What they didn’t do was tell their suppliers to end forced arbitration for their workers. Over 54 percent of the people that work for Google are temporary workers or vendors or contractors. So we’re still fighting for them.
When Google announced the small changes with arbitration as a response to address a number of issues, we took it as a sign of how long this fight would be. Here’s what’s still on the table. Here’s why it’s still important. Don’t lose that anger because we need to keep fighting.
NARRATION: More than a year after the walkout, many workers are still waiting for more transparency and accountability. Google denies it pays women less, but the Department of Labor is investigating whether there’s been systemic discrimination.
TANUJA GUPTA: You don’t get to say, I promise I won’t harass you, but I’m still going to pay you terribly. I am still being discriminated against in that case. We’re fighting for equality for workers, and that means you need access to all your rights, not just the ones that get cherry-picked by a company.
NARRATION: Of the seven workers who organized the walkout, four are no longer at the company, and some of them claimed they faced retaliation.
Gupta has remained at Google and has focused her efforts on advocating for legislation to change the laws around forced arbitration. California recently passed a law to prevent companies from forcing employees to sign arbitration clauses, but business groups have challenged it.
TANUJA GUPTA: I’m sure anybody who’s thinking about discrimination and harassment in the workplace, on some days they’re going to feel like we’ve made great strides, and other days you’ll feel like we’re nowhere.
I think as a whole, like even though you kind of keep cycling, we have moved the ball, thanks to the hard work of people that have come before us. But we still have a long way to go. You don’t get to just walk out for an hour and expect everything to change. You have to continue fighting, and chip away at the problem.