Google Drops Mandatory Arbitration Requirement for All Employees

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 28, 2019

Google has announced it will soon end its practice of requiring employees to resolve employment disputes through arbitration as a condition of employment. The move comes just months after the company said it would stop requiring arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.

Google notified its staff in an email last week that the new policy will take effect on March 21 and will apply to new claims and disputes currently being arbitrated. The policy will not apply to previously settled disputes. Any employee who prefers to resolve a dispute using private arbitration will still have that option, the company said. Google also reportedly will let employees pursue class action lawsuits. Currently, employees are subject to a class action waiver requirement.

Although recent Supreme Court rulings have strengthened the enforceability of mandatory arbitration agreements, the #MeToo movement has caused an increase in calls to end the practice.

The new policy covers US and international employees, including those who work on projects that operate under Google (e.g., the DeepMind AI program) but not to staff at other companies owned by parent corporation Alphabet.

Following the announcement, Google said it also is dropping mandatory arbitration requirements from its legal agreements with contractors and temporary workers that it hires directly. However, Google said it will not require third-party firms that provide it with contract and temporary workers to make a similar change in their employment agreements.

Organizers of the November 2018 Google walkout had explicitly demanded that the company stop requiring arbitration for sexual harassment claims. In December, a spin-off group named End Forced Arbitration called for a broader end to forced arbitration, to include more types of disputes and to do so for all Google workers, including contractors and those employed on a temporary basis.