An open letter to Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai published on Medium asks Alphabet to stop protecting harassers of employees who believe they have been victimized by others in the company.
“Alphabet does not provide a safe environment for those who face harassment in the workplace,” the letter begins. “Even when HR confirms harassment, no action is taken to make the reporter safe.”
The letter points to an opinion piece written by Emi Nietfeld, a software engineer who worked at Google from 2015 through 2019. It was published in The New York Times on April 7, 2021.
Nietfeld, who experienced homelessness and spent time in foster care during her high school years, pulled herself up from despair, got an education, and began working at Google. She treated the company and those who worked there as a surrogate family.
In the opinion piece, Nietfeld describes how Alphabet human resources did nothing to protect her from her harasser.
“The few people who’d worked at other companies reminded us that there was nowhere better,” Nietfeld wrote in the NYT op-ed piece. “I believed them, even when my technical lead — not my manager, but the man in charge of my day-to-day work — addressed me as 'beautiful' and 'gorgeous,' even after I asked him to stop. (Finally, I agreed that he could call me ‘my queen.’) He used many of our one-on-one meetings to ask me to set him up with friends, then said he wanted 'A blonde. A tall blonde.' Someone who looked like me."
Despite all the wonderful things people hear about Google, there seems to have been a long pattern of its parent company protecting harassers.
The letter posted on Medium -- which was drafted by several workers, including some with the Alphabet Workers Union (though it's not a union-branded letter” -- explains how the “person who reports harassment is forced to bear the burden, usually leaving Alphabet while their harasser stays or is rewarded for their behavior.”
The letter pointed to Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software, who received a $90 million exit package after a woman accused him of coercing her into reportedly performing oral sex.
Amit Singhal, a former search executive, was awarded $35 million when he was forced to resign after a sexual assault investigation.
Tombert, who responded to the op-ed in a post on Reddit provided an interesting point of view. Seven years ago, Tombert worked at a close-knit startup, where the coworkers were friends with everyone from the CEO to the employees were fun to be around. After two years on the job, the company was hit with two lawsuits. Things changed, two-thirds of the company was laid off.
Tombert went from employed to unemployed overnight. “After that, I made a bit of a vow to myself to remember that a job is, at its core, a business transaction,” Tombert wrote. “You sell your time and expertise for compensation. It's great if you really like your boss and your coworkers, that'll help avoid depression, but remember at the end of the day, a company is not your family, and if they don't think you're creating enough value for them, they will end this transaction.”
The public letter addressed to Pichai calls on Alphabet to give employees the right to work in an abuse-free environment.
Petitioners ask Alphabet to remove reports from harassers. In other words, no harasser should manage or lead a team, directly or indirectly, including dotted-line reports or managing temps, vendors, or contractors.
Those who signed the letter also ask for mandatory team changes when claims of harassment are verified.
HR already has a process in place for romantic relationships that could create potential workplace problems. They should use the same process. Alphabet has stricter polices around consensual relationships than for harassment, according to the letter.
There are nearly 100 signatures, mostly from software engineers, at the time of this post.