Timeline of a crisis: The #MeToo movement comes to Google

Google was hit with one of its worst crises yet after revelations about former exec Andy Rubin

Photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

November 28, 2017
Digital media company The Information reports Andy Rubin, the creator of Android and a former Google executive, left the company in 2014 after it discovered he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

It was unclear what those allegations were and whether he was paid an exit package.

Rubin takes a leave of absence from his new smartphone venture, Essential, for personal reasons. His spokesperson, crisis wrangler Mike Sitrick, denies wrongdoing.

October 25, 2018
The New York Times publishes an investigation saying Google paid Rubin handsomely despite finding credible allegations he coerced a female employee to perform oral sex on him.

Instead of firing Rubin, then-Google CEO Larry Page asked for his resignation. The tech company kept the revelations under wraps and paid Rubin a $90 million exit package in 2014. Rubin denies the allegations through spokesperson Sam Singer. He tweets the allegations are part of a smear campaign.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai and HR head Eileen Naughton email employees, saying they’ve fired 48 people over the past two years for sexual harassment with no exit package.

October 26
Google staff confronts Pichai and current-Alphabet CEO Page at its weekly meetings, asking what it will do to reverse its current course of action: protecting abusers at the expense of victims’ well-being. Page admits there are some decisions he "would have made differently" and offers an apology.

October 29
A group of more than 200 engineers organize a companywide walkout for November 1 to protest Google protecting perpetrators of sexual harassment.

Pichai emails employees to voice his support of the walkout.

October 30
Axios reports Richard DeVaul, a director at Alphabet’s research and development arm, X, has left the company following allegations in the Times.

The newspaper reports he made a pass at a woman applying for a job at X. DeVaul did not receive an exit package, according to a spokeswoman.

October 31
Over 1,500 Google employees plan to walk out of nearly two dozen offices worldwide.

November 1
Pichai addresses the crisis at the Dealbook conference, saying, "At Google, we set a high bar, and we didn’t live up to expectations."

November 2
#GoogleWalkout organizers say at least 20,000 employees and contractors participated in offices in 50 cities around the world.

Pichai will meet with his leadership team to review a plan that will address the walkout’s demands, which include an end to forced arbitration in harassment cases.

November 8
In a public letter, Pichai announces Google is making arbitration optional, providing more detail into sexual harassment investigations, and revamping its reporting system. Also, it’s doubling down on its commitment to diversity and inclusion and updating its mandatory sexual harassment training.

Mixed
Google failed at basic comms: engaging all stakeholders, but Pichai’s letter promises extensive overhaul that can bring about a safer workplace.

Takeaway #1
Paging Larry Page. Google’s cofounder may have squirmed out of testifying in front of Congress, but turtling up isn’t an option when it comes to this sensitive of an issue. It’s visceral, it taps into a social firestorm, and the company’s character is on trial.

Takeaway #2
Your people are your brand. Privacy, echo chambers, and politics aside, Google is finally getting hit where it hurts: losing its edge as an employer of choice, a key component of its corporate reputation. Whatever brand equity Google has built up over the years will bleed out fast if it’s its own employees holding the knife.

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