back to article Googlers to flood social media with tales of harassment in bid to end forced arbitration

Googlers are launching a public campaign in a bid to end forced arbitration as part of the battle over harassment allegations levelled against the corporation. Alphabet – the search giant’s parent biz – has seen lawsuit after lawsuit roll in over a workplace culture that, it is alleged, allowed harassment and discrimination to …

  1. LucreLout Silver badge

    The employees also complained that temporary, vendor and contract staff aren’t employed on the same terms as full-time employees

    Surely that's the main point in having temporary, vendor and contract staff?

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Yeah I saw that and wondered what exactly was meant by that, does it mean for instances they don't have the forced arbitration in their contract for instants

      1. ExampleOne

        Well, for a start, I would assume it means that vendor staff are actually employed by the vendor on the vendors contract.

        It would be very strange indeed for vendor staff to be employed on the same terms as direct employees as their duty of care is to their employer, the vendor, first, and not to Google.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          My thoughts...

          I think they are saying Vendor/Contract staff are not made aware of the policies on "safety, discrimination and sexual misconduct". That means if they suffer discrimination or harrassment, they dont know what to do about it, and are expected to suffer in silence. I assume on that account they just want those staff to receive info about the policies (probably in the company handout they give new employees), so that if they suffer these things, they know who to report it to.

          Not so difficult to understand, but a bit confusing when they've rolled it in to their complaints about forced arbitration...

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: My thoughts...

            At first glance it rather looks like they are complaining that Google aren't taking it upon themselves to enforce/educate non-Googlers, presumably leaving it to the people who they are actually contracted with.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Well, for a start, I would assume it means that vendor staff are actually employed by the vendor on the vendors contract.

          Exactly and thus subject to different rules. So if a contractor complains, they'll probably just have their contract pulled and end up unemployed. Job-shopping/Contract Work has many advantages for someone willing to take such a position, but job security, benefits, and the ability to file complaints about the contracting company aren't part of the benefits. Contracting firms are more likely to just get rid of anyone who complains.

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

    I'm not that familiar with the details of enforced arbitration but I can understand the attraction for both parties if it can provide a resolution faster than the courts. If there are problems with it (presumably the impartiality of the arbitrator) they could challenge the legality of the clause in the courts. And, if they have a case, I'm sure there'd be enough bodies like the ACLU to bankroll a challenge. The could even set up a union.

    Or they can do some virtue signalling on the interwebs. Wonder what would be the more effective.

    1. Tikimon Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

      Companies with unethical practices they'd rather not face trouble over work hard to keep them hidden. One whistleblower is not enough, one sex crime victim can be ignored or marginalized. They simply don't have a loud voice to attract attention, and are easily deflected by power, money, and armies of lawyers.

      Shove such a company into the public eye airing the dirty details for all to see and they're forced to respond. They can fix the problems, spin like mad and hope, make empty promises and wait for the storm to pass, etc. However it turns out, NOTHING happens until that public exposure and getting large numbers of people interested.

      True, this won't change anything where a legal challenge would. However, more exposure than they can sweep under the rug will keep the problem in the public eye, and any legal challenge might then have a fighting chance.

      1. #define INFINITY -1 Bronze badge

        Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

        In the interests of not giving a dog a bad name unnecessarily, I note that where the article talks 'sexual harassment' and 'discrimination', you are talking about sex crimes?

        Let me rephrase, give a dog a bad name, or call him Satan--are these equivalent?

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

        Shove such a company into the public eye airing the dirty details for all to see and they're forced to respond.

        Not really, they can, and frequently do, make some token gestures and sit it out. They can't do this with a court's judgement.

        Click here to cure cancer.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

      "they could challenge the legality of the clause in the courts"

      If they can afford it sure, but taking a massive company to court is generally not cheap. Certainly not as cheap as making a fuss on the internet. Which approach seems to have worked, as it's made both you and I think about it.

      1. #define INFINITY -1 Bronze badge

        Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

        Which separates Google employees from the rest of us plebs, who must just accept our job or quit. Justice?

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

        If they can afford it sure, but taking a massive company to court is generally not cheap.

        No, but if there is merit in the case then they are usually bodies, such as the ACLU (as I mentioned), that are willing to take it up. Or the legions of slacktivists could dip their hands into their pockets.

        Personally, I think US law is fucked up when it comes to harassment and discrimination because they're usually treated as civil and not criminal issues.

    3. Aedile

      Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

      You're right the main problem with arbitration is that it's virtually always biased for whomever pays the bill. If the payer picks an arbiter and they don't find in the payers interest enough times the payer will select a new arbiter until they find one that does. This drive arbiters that are fair/biased against the payer out of business creating a uneven playing field. This is exactly why every company loves binding arbitration because they are typically the payers. The only way I see to avoid this is to have both sides equally pick/fund an arbitrator so if the arbitrator favors 1 side too often they'll lose half their funding.

    4. EveryTime Silver badge

      Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

      I first directly encountered the JAMS system (a California-centric arbitration system) almost two decades ago. Even back then it had a reputation for being heavily biased toward the repeat players, which is almost always the employer. (The rare exception being out-of-state employers with a few California employees.)

      Arbitrators are selected by the parties involved. Like any short-term client relationship, they make their money on repeat business. It doesn't take much imagination to foresee the result.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

        @EveryTime; Sounds bad. I'd say that right now... right now... right now it's time to... kick out the JAMS, motherf****rs!

    5. sabroni Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Or they can do some virtue signalling on the interwebs

      That's how your post read to me. Maybe you could clarify the difference between "virtue signalling" and "stating your opinion"?

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Or they can do some virtue signalling on the interwebs

        Maybe you could clarify the difference between "virtue signalling" and "stating your opinion"?

        I would define virtue signalling more as adopting a particular moral or political position for the sake of it rather than expressing an opinion or making an argument. The classic used to be "but won't someone think of the children?" but more politics and the interwebs have conspired to give us a set of binary, tribal positions to adopt: patriotic or internationalist; conservative or progressive, etc.

        The problems with virtue signalling as I see it, are, it favours the echo chamber over engagement and is often at best patronising. For many upvoting something, repeating a sentiment is enough though any student of political history will show that this is not how change is brought.

    6. drankinatty

      Re: Social media "campaign" versus legal challenge

      Well, it is quite apparent you are not familiar with the details of "forced arbitration". It is by far the most unequal playing field ever conceived when applied to individuals and is no substitute for your day-in-court.

      Why? Arbitration was never envisioned to apply to individuals or consumers. It was envisioned to provide resolution of disputes between business where each was presumed to be a sophisticated party and a party with equal bargaining power to include, or not include, terms in the contracts between them (including, or not including, an "arbitration clause").

      In the U.S., an arbitration clause strips an individual of their constitutional right to trial by jury where the amount in controversy exceeds $20. (I'm sure there is some similar protection on the other side of the pond)

      Instead of access to the courts where a filing fee and service is generally less than $400 (regardless of the amount claimed in damages). In arbitration, individuals are now required to pay an arbitration fee and the fee of the arbitrator(s) (in some circumstances a panel of three) where the arbitration fee is based on the amount claimed (and can easily surpass $5,000) and the fees for each arbitrator can easily add another $5,000.

      Now go find a lawyer to represent you in arbitration. The number of attorneys with actual arbitration experience is likely less than 1/500 -- can you guess their cost? Expect to rely on the same rules of evidence that ensure a fair trial in court? Sorry, that's within the arbitrator's discretion. Think you are entitled to have your damage amount decided by a jury of your peers? Sorry, the arbitrator, generally someone with experience in the industry associated with the type of case, will do that for you.

      Think you were unfairly treated, bad rulings made by the arbitrator, think you have a chance to appeal the award to the court system? Sorry again, the grounds upon which to challenge an arbitration award are so few and so rare, you probably have less than a 1/100 chance to even secure a review of the award compared to an appeal from court.

      Arbitration beginning to sound a little one-sided and unfair when applied to individuals or in consumer transactions? Nothing caused big business to be as giddy and smile with more glee than the court's and regulator's approval of arbitration clauses in consumer and individual contracts.

      They were not giddy or smiling because they thought arbitration would be more fair or expeditious for the individual....

  3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

    I'm somewhat confused that (unlike in civilised jurisdictions) contract law is allowed to trump national law.

    In the UK (at least) contracts that try to enforce terms that are illegal (ie - attempt to take away legal rights) are deemed to be unenforcable and (potentially) illegal. I assume that isn't the case in the US

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

      I assume that isn't the case in the US

      I don't think contracts can enforce anything illegal but they can certainly be much more restrictive in the US than elsewhere. Two older examples I know of: employees can be required not too smoke at all ie. not even at home; Disney banned facial hair for employees but found this was unenforceable at Disneyland, Paris.

      For all their vaunted constitutional rights, you can see the continuation of pre-enlightenment practices in much US law.

      1. ThomH Silver badge

        Re: "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

        In America you can famously be fired for your political beliefs, even if you express them no more strongly than merely having a bumper sticker (that's the 2004 story of a Kerry supporter fired by her Bush-supporting boss).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

          [per wikipedia] At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law for contractual relationships in which an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish "just cause" for termination), and without warning, as long as the reason is not illegal (e.g. firing because of the employee's race or religion).

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

      I don't think the US law is all that different from the UK; where a contract requires arbitration, that process will be required to be completed first, and grounds for overturning an arbitration finding are (1) fraud or corruption; (2) partiality; (3) misconduct in selection of evidence; (4) straying outside of the bounds their powers, by either going too far or failing to reach a conclusion.

      If you've the time and curiosity, compare and contrast the Federal Arbitration Act and the Arbitration Act 1986.

      I think the Google employees are reacting to a system that in practice appears to have allowed malfeasance by million-dollar employees to be swept under the carpet, more than necessarily a principle of law.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

        "I don't think the US law is all that different from the UK; where a contract requires arbitration, that process will be required to be completed first, and grounds for overturning an arbitration finding are (1) fraud or corruption; (2) partiality; (3) misconduct in selection of evidence; (4) straying outside of the bounds their powers, by either going too far or failing to reach a conclusion."

        It's my impression that forced arbitration is more or less unlawful in the UK. It's nigh on impossible for a company to stop an employee taking them to an employment tribunal.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "requires employees to waive any rights to sue or appeal"

          AIUI, having looked into it when I was made "redundant", you have to go to arbitration before the Employment Tribunal will take a case. If arbitration fails to find a mutually agreeable solution then you can continue onto the ET.

          If I wasn't so depressed at the time that I could barely get dressed in the morning I'd have taken my ex employer to the ET. I think I'd have had a good case, but even if I lost it would have been good to see the tosser responsible having to explain himself to people who actually know the law rather than the version he thinks he knows ! The fact that it cost a not inconsiderable sum at time also didn't help - something later reversed when declared illegal by the courts.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Out of interest, does anyone know if this group is just a vocal minority or is this an actual movement within Google?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If the movement was within google, my assumption is that they wouldn't be using Twitter to do it, but that is just my assumption.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I guess we'll know depending on the coverage. The walkout got a lot of publicity even before it happened; this doesn't seem to me as much reported?

      Or maybe everybody is talking about Brexit.

  5. FXi

    ...a wretched hive of scum and villainy

  6. Kicker of Metaphorical Cats
    Paris Hilton

    will have interviews of "survivors"

    Oh come on. Really? Survivors? Oh-my, I had a conflict and made it through the arbitration process. The horror!

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: will have interviews of "survivors"

      @Kicker of...

      I suspect you speak as someone who's never been made so miserable that you were sick with stress, who has never been hounded out of a job, who has never seen others inexplicably promoted, who has never been gaslighted.

      I admit I don't like the term 'survivor', which began to be used with good intendtions (e.g. 'cancer survivor') and has now been diluted, but it's an OK word until we find a better one. We all know what it means.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: will have interviews of "survivors"

        I suspect you speak as someone who's never been made so miserable that you were sick with stress, who has never ...

        It certainly sounds that way. People who've never experienced it, or been close enough to see how it affects people, don't understand what it's like. They tend to use phrases like "pull yourself together" or "man up" as though it's much the same as having a bit of a hangover on Monday morning but you can push through it if you try.

        Anon for obvious reasons :

        I've been there, when it gets to the point where you wake up in the morning feeling sick at the prospect of going to work - in a job that you actually love, or at least used to love - because you know you'll have to be in the same space as some utter s**t that thinks he is above everyone else in the company and treats you and everyone else in your department as something he just trod in. And knowing that written complaints about his conduct will result in you being told to "talk to him and sort it out" - yeah right, I'm complaining that I and others are being bullied by this s**t and *I* am expected to sort it out ?

        It took a year from being made redundant to recover mentally, but now I've getting up to daylight from being in the bottom of that dark hole, I realise that getting made redundant was the best thing that could have happened at the time - they had to give me a decent chunk of cash which has tided me over. Before that I was stuck in a cycle of depression and self-doubt - unable to just quit for financial reasons, and unabe to get another job because in that state you just don't believe you can do any of the ones you see advertised. There have been times where I really don't think I could have got through it without the support and encouragement of family and friends - and I really do mean thinking that there's no way forward and no point to life at times.

        A few people recently have said I look a lot happier than I've looked for a long time - and that's before I got a job offer recently :-)

  7. DeeCee

    before rise of modern "feminism" and pound-metoo id support this, at this point "feminists" have degraded everything about sexual harassment so much that its often just ways to extort money instead of actual harassment.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Yeah, sexual harassment does not exist and is a plot against men... pigs fly too.

      1. DeeCee

        it does exist, but there is a difference between real actions and "i didnt like the way he looked at me", or "i dont like him so i report him", there is one great comic about different reaction of same action based on guys looks. there are women complaining about somebody touching their butt in a party in 1973. a gay once touched my butt 10 years ago, should i go complain now? i took it as a compliment and moved on.

        the issue with these things is that men(because there are completely different rules for when women do it) are made guilty before trial or having a chance to defend themselves ruining careers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't blame feminists (I may be a feminist myself) but there is a real problem with the way that sexual harassment is defined. To start off with, it's officially a kind of discrimination, perhaps for some historical reason. And then: "Bullying itself is not against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following: age; sex; disability; ..."

      So it's OK to bully someone for being left-handed, say, and that's not "harassment", but if someone gropes both male and female colleagues then they're guilty of discrimination?

      I am of course in favour of sensible steps to prevent sexual harassment, defined in a common-sense way, but the legal situation is crazy. That craziness is perhaps one cause of negative reactions like the one I'm replying to.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Reading this, I'm glad to live in a so-called 'socialist country' where laws protect workers against abuses from employers.

  9. devTrail

    Taking credit

    Eventually workers started fighting against a widespread abuse and what happens? The big corp pops out to take credit.

  10. Ray Foulkes

    Google, a converged organisation

    Don't forget that James Damore demonstrated just how much of an SJW converged organisation is Google. Take all this with a pinch of salt. I am not sure why the SJWs don't like enforced arbitration though. See

    https://medium.com/datadriveninvestor/thousands-of-google-employees-staged-walkouts-in-offices-around-the-world-this-week-in-protest-at-5ca76171207d

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019