Google Will Stop Making Employees Waive Class Action Rights
(Bloomberg) -- After months of worker protests, Alphabet Inc.’s Google will stop making its employees sign away their right to bring claims against it in court.
Google stopped so-called forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and assault last year after 20,000 workers walked out to oppose how the search giant handles internal complaints. That wasn’t enough for some of the employees, who kept pressing the company to end the practice altogether. Google will do that on March 21, a spokeswoman said on Thursday. The company will also cease enforcing agreements that waived workers’ right to bring their claims as class actions.
Google’s decision was reported earlier by Axios.
The shift is a victory for Google employees who’ve been organizing on several fronts, including workplace harassment, the treatment of contract workers and what kind of work the company does for government and military groups. The Mountain View, California-based company won’t require third-parties that employ sub-contracted staff for Google to institute the same changes, though. About half of those in Google’s total workforce aren’t official employees of the company.
Labor advocates hailed Google’s move as a superior alternative to the narrower restrictions on forced arbitration that the company and some of its peers announced last year. “This is a major step forward, even as compared to what Google was saying it was going to do” last November, said Charlotte Garden, a labor law professor at Seattle University School of Law.
Ending forced arbitration across the board means that an employee won’t have to worry that raising issues like racial discrimination or retaliation along with sexual harassment will get their case sent to arbitration, said Garden. “It is significant that those claims can now all stay in court together.” Allowing courtroom class actions also makes it feasible for workers to address wage and hour violations that otherwise might not be financially feasible to pursue, she said.
“We are in a moment in which workers are embracing their collective power,” Garden said, comparing the Google walkout’s success in moving Alphabet to this week’s victory by teachers in West Virginia, where legislators voted to suspend consideration of an education bill hours after educators began a strike to protest it. “The more wins workers rack up across a range of different industries, the more we’ll see other workers following suit.”
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