Everything Wrong With How Corporations Handle Sexual Harassment

How poorly corporations handle sexual harassment on womenPhoto By: Hossam el-Hamalawy/Flickr

Recently, Google confirmed paying $135 million to two of its senior executives involved in sexual harassment allegations. If there’s one thing we can take away from this debacle is that men, who continually use their position of power over their subordinates can quickly get away with these unlawful acts while women who go against it are pushed aside and eventually will lose their jobs.

In this modern age, it still baffles activists how corporations handle situations such as sexual harassment swiftly and quietly. The secret? Mandatory arbitration.

Forced arbitration is compelled on most employees the moment they sign a bulky stack of contract papers who unfortunately don’t holistically read through. These contracts usually include employees to undergo mandatory arbitration in the instance a conflict is reported.

Employees don’t realize that they have given up their right to court with these clauses. They are, instead, subjected to vague rules on arbitrations and silenced through non-disclosure agreements — all for the veil of secrecy and keeping the company image spotless.

Arbitration in its most common description a private court that functions using different rules than civil courts – there is no judge or jury, for instance, but an “arbitrator” who is chosen by the parties, and paid by the employer, to decide the ruling of a case. The whole process is strictly confidential as only involved parties are made aware.

Since the 1920s, arbitration has been legally binding: once parties agree to settle a dispute in arbitration, they give up their right to go to court.

Arbitration has been a centuries-old system initially developed to settle disputes between businesses for a cheaper and quicker alternative compared to the conventional justice system. In 1980, the US supreme court issued that arbitrations can also be used to resolve conflicts between employees and employers over things such as discrimination, wage issues, sexual harassment, among others.

This mandatory arbitration allowed the likes of Andy Rubin, former Head of Android, to get away with sexual harassment allegations made against him by subordinates and make a hefty settlement out of it in exchange of his resignation, amounting to $90 million.

Former CEO, Larry Page, even went out of his way and praised Rubin when he left the company, saying in a 2014 public statement: “I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next. With Android, he created something truly remarkable – with billion-plus happy users.”

According to the New York Times report, Rubin was involved in other behavioral misconduct issues. In separate instances, Google docked his bonus after security found bondage videos on his work computer.

Rie Rubin, his former wife, who divorced him this year, said in a civil suit that he engaged in “ownership relationships” with several other women while they were married. In an email he sent to a woman in 2015, Rubin wrote: “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”

Moreover, the Times reported that an employee claimed Amit Singhal groped her at an off-campus event and a Google investigation found her claims credible. In exchange for his resignation, a separation fee of $15 million. Initially would have been $45 million if he did not enter the rival company, Uber.

On November 2018, thousands of Google employees across the globe walked out of their offices in protest to the disgusting behavior that the company allows to proliferate.

Demma Rodriguez, who heads equity engineering at Google in New York protested “Enough is enough! Every single person at Google is exceptional […] it is absolutely disgusting that anyone thinks you can be less than exceptional, worse than that, you can be negligent about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and abuse of power.”

Others protested against gender discrimination that persisted inside the company. Some argued that women had a tougher time rising through the ranks compared to their male counterparts.

Activists campaigned for the removal of the mandatory arbitration in contracts, which allows the repetitive cycle of abuse and unjust working conditions to continue.

In reaction, Google removed its mandatory arbitration clauses after its employees walked out of their offices. Facebook also followed suit.

Current CEO, Sundar Pichai said in a statement, “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel, I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society and, yes, here at Google, too.”

Moreover, the Google memo said: “We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.”

Promises remain promises until supple action has been carried through. Hopefully, Google, as well as other companies, follow with what conspired and finally take action against such behaviors. Let’s not allow the unfortunate experiences of others become another result of company misconduct.

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