Thousands of Google employees walked out of company offices in Asia, Europe and North America on Thursday to protest alleged “sexism, racism and unchecked executive power in their workplace,” Reuters reported. The walkouts were brief and happened during the midday hours.
Hundreds of employees at Google’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California, were seen streaming into a courtyard during the protest, according to the report.
Some of the workers carried signs. One of them read, “Not OK Google.” The phrase “OK Google” is used to activate Google’s voice-operated digital assistant.
In New York City, male and female employees walked around the block surrounding Google’s offices for about 10 minutes. A few of the staffers were holding sheets of paper that read, “Respect for women.”
“This is Google. We solve the toughest problems here. We all know that the status quo is unacceptable and if there is any company who can solve this, I think it is Google,” Thomas Kneeland, a software engineer at the company, told Reuters.
About two blocks away, a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered in a small park. Some of them carried signs with the words, “Time’s Up Tech."
In San Francisco, a few hundred people gathered near the city’s ferry building and listened to a woman yelling from a megaphone.
What triggered the protests?
The walkouts came after a New York Times investigation into sexual misconduct within the company. One hot button issue for employees was Google's decision to pay a $90 million severance over a four-year period to Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software.
Rubin was accused of coercing another employee into a sex act in a hotel room in 2013. He was asked to resign in 2014. Rubin denied the allegation, and has also refuted the amount of his compensation package. Google did not deny it, according to Reuters.
Ahead of the walkouts, organizers called for a number of changes at the internet giant, including changes in human resources policies that would make it easier to file harassment claims.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai indicated in a statement that “employees have raised constructive ideas” and that the company was “taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
What happened overseas?
Elsewhere, hundreds of workers marched out of Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Some employees left notes on their desk that read, “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone,” according to published reports.
Google’s headquarters in Dublin employs 7,000 people, making it the largest facility outside of the U.S. Google's parent company Alphabet, has about 90,000 employees and tens of thousands of contractors, according to reports.