Alphabet Board Sued Over Claims It Covered Up Senior Execs' Sexual Misconduct

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek January 11, 2019

A Google shareholder filed a lawsuit against parent company Alphabet Inc. on Thursday, claiming it shielded and approved large payouts to former executives that it knew were alleged to have committed sexual harassment.

"The directors' wrongful conduct allowed the illegal conduct to proliferate and continue," the lawsuit says.

Members of Alphabet's board, for example, approved a $90 million severance package when former Android chief Andy Rubin resigned after an internal investigation found the allegations of sexual harassment were credible.

Other allegations claim that while at Google, Rubin engaged in human sex trafficking "by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to women to be, in Rubin's own words, owned by him." He also is alleged to have paid lobbyists to oppose legislation in Washington, D.C., that sought to combat human sex trafficking.

Thousands of Google employees participated in a "walkout" last year to protest what they saw as lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.

Executives at other companies who have been accused of sexual misconduct don't always fare as well. When an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Les Moonves, he was fired from his role as CEO of CBS and denied a $120 million payout he otherwise would have received, The New York Times reported in December.

SHRM Online collected the following articles from its archives and other news outlets about the suit against Apple.  

Alphabet's Board Sued for Role in Allegedly Covering Up Sexual Misconduct by Senior Execs

Attorneys in San Francisco representing an Alphabet shareholder are suing the board of directors for allegedly covering up sexual misconduct claims against top executives.

The suit comes months after an explosive New York Times report detailed how Google shielded executives accused of sexual misconduct, either by keeping them on staff or allowing them amicable departures.

How Google Protected Andy Rubin, the 'Father of Android' 

The internet giant paid Rubin $90 million and praised him, while keeping silent about a misconduct claim.

Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct. In two instances, it ousted senior executives, but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed, even though it had no legal obligation to do so. In a third, the executive remained in a highly compensated post at the company. Each time Google stayed silent about the accusations against the men.
(The New York Times)   

Lawsuit Seeks Change to Alphabet Governance 

Two shareholder lawsuits filed this week seek to force Google to change its governance and oversight to stop future workplace conduct issues. They also call for Alphabet directors to pay damages to Alphabet for allegedly breaching their fiduciary duties and engaging in corporate waste. One of the two lawsuits in San Mateo County Superior Court in California cites minutes from Alphabet board and board committee meetings where the executives' situations were discussed. 

Google Overhauls Sexual Misconduct Policy After Employee Walkouts 

A week after Google workers around the globe walked off their jobs to protest how the company handled sexual harassment complaints against Rubin, creator of Android mobile software, and other executives at the company, the Internet giant was promising change. 

It vowed on Nov. 8 to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual harassment cases, with CEO Sundar Pichai spelling out the concessions in an e-mail to Google employees. The company said it will no longer require mandatory arbitration of sexual misconduct allegations and will provide more details about sexual misconduct cases in internal reports.  
(SHRM Online)   

Viewpoint: If We Had a Say, This Wouldn't Have Happened—Reflecting on the #GoogleWalkout Lawsuits

Employees affiliated with Google Walkout For Real Change released a statement about the shareholder lawsuit against Alphabet.

"We welcome today's shareholder lawsuits, and are grateful to those who brought them," the statement said. "Among other things, the lawsuits claim that by covering for and rewarding known sexual abusers such as Andy Rubin and Amit Singhal, Google's Board of Directors and others in Google leadership abdicated their fiduciary duty to Google as a whole and weakened the company by driving away qualified employees."

EEOC Drops Hammer on Workplace Harassment 

Workplace harassment makes up about one-fourth of the charges the agency has filed in recent years, according to EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. Among the 80,000 to 90,000 discrimination charges the agency receives annually, almost one-third include an allegation of harassment.
(SHRM Online)   

Try Harassment Audits as a Change Agent 

Harassment audits—a combination of culture surveys, identification of harassment risk factors and recommended changes—can help employers weed out inappropriate conduct.

And just in time: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recovered $70 million in sexual-harassment litigation so far in 2018, compared to $47.5 million in 2017.

The best harassment audits analyze risk factors and survey the workforce, according to Jeanine Gozdecki, an attorney with Midwest-based Barnes & Thornburg. 
(SHRM Online)



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