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Google Walks Out: Employers Take Notice

The power of the #MeToo movement continues as Google recently discovered.  In late October, the New York Times published an article disclosing multiple payoffs over the years for sexual harassment allegations against several Google executives. In response, Google employees across the world walked out.  The walkout was so big it began trending on social media hashtag #GoogleWalkout.

For employers, Google’s experience is a cautionary tale and should be a wakeup call if you were not taking the #MeToo movement seriously.  Employees all over are staging protests and speaking out about sexual harassment!  In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal watch dog for anti-harassment employment laws, recently released preliminary charge statistics for the 2018 indicating a 13.6% increase in sexual harassment charges for the year. 

Companies must respond appropriately to harassment allegations.  This means the company must investigate each and every allegation of harassment.  It must also take appropriate corrective action if wrong doing is found.  However, the appropriate corrective action may not be terminating the alleged harasser.  A written warning, final written warning, and/or sensitivity training may be enough depending on the facts. 

Employers must recognize that employees occasionally make comments that don’t belong at work.  If the comment is extreme, then potentially termination is warranted.  However, if not, a written warning and/or training may be sufficient.  Of course, if the comments continue, further corrective action is warranted and necessary.  Since individualized training can be expensive and time-consuming, we often see it limited to key employees.  There is a whole spectrum of what constitutes an appropriate response by the Company.  The key is the employer must respond and be prepared to take further – more serious – action if the behavior continues.  Bottom line – take it seriously and do something!

Brody and Associates regularly provides training and counseling on maintaining a harassment free environment and on employment law issues in general. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.