Google Parent Agrees to $310 Million Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Settlement, Will Implement DEI Initiatives

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 29, 2020

Google's parent company, Alphabet, has agreed to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a group of shareholders for $310 million. As part of the settlement, Alphabet will take actions to prevent and address sexual harassment and misconduct, and to improve corporate efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

In their lawsuit, the shareholders claimed that Alphabet's board and senior executives improperly awarded multi-million-dollar severance packages to male executives who had been credibly accused of sexually harassing female employees.

For example, the board approved a $90 million severance package for Andy Rubin, creator of the Android mobile software, and Amit Singhal, former senior vice president of search, was released with a $45 million severance package. In both cases, internal investigations determined that the sexual harassment accusations were credible.

The lawsuit claimed that these actions and payouts were part of a broader culture that discriminated against women by assigning women jobs with lower compensation, promoting women more slowly and at lower rates, and paying them less than similarly situated men.

Alphabet will pay $310 million over 10 years to fund a global workplace initiative and programs that focus on:

  • Expanding the pool of technologists who are historically underrepresented (i.e., diverse, historically underrepresented and/or disadvantaged individuals or groups), by increasing educational and career opportunities that build computer science talent;
  • Hiring, promoting and retaining historically underrepresented talent at Alphabet, and in particular at Google;
  • Fostering respectful, equitable and inclusive workplace cultures; and
  • Helping historically underrepresented groups and individuals succeed with their businesses and in the digital economy and tech industry, including by supporting conferences and events and increasing access to digital tools and opportunities.

In addition, Alphabet will for at least five years adopt and maintain a program designed to prevent and/or address sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, retaliation, discrimination and pay equity. It also will establish and maintain for at least five years a DEI Advisory Council made up of external and internal members, including the company's CEO, who will serve on the council for the first year.

Other aspects of the settlement mirror workplace policy changes made at Google. For instance, Google previously ended the use of mandatory arbitration for all employment disputes between Google and its employees or extended workforce. Google also limits its use of confidentiality restrictions when settling sexual harassment and retaliation claims, including allowing complainants to discuss certain incidents and the reporting process.

Alphabet will extend the restrictions on mandatory arbitration to its other business ventures, and will encourage them to follow Google's restrictions for limiting the use of confidentiality agreements.