A shareholder of the parent firm of Google has filed a lawsuit against Alphabet Inc., claiming the company’s coverup of sexual abuse claims against top Google employees has cost the company money.
Shareholder James Martin filed the lawsuit against Alphabet’s board and senior executives. Two pension funds have filed similar suits, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The pension fund suits, filed by the Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan and Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund, claim Google perpetuated a “toxic work environment.”
“We are saying to the board of directors that it’s time they stand up and do what Google says — ‘do the right thing,’” said attorney Louise Renne, according to The Verge.
“There has been substantial evidence of sexual harassment at Google. And yet there hasn’t been the appropriate follow-through. In fact, quite to the contrary. The perpetrators of the sexual harassment have been rewarded handsomely — in one case, by a $90 million payout. And that’s just wrong,” she said.
Doing so has cost shareholders money, according to attorney Frank Bottini.
First, he said, there were the $90 million paid to Android creator Andy Rubin, who left under a cloud of allegations of forcing a co-worker into oral sex, and a severance package to Search chief Amit Singhal, who faced accusations of groping an employee.
Bottini said that Google’s value on the stock market sagged by several billion dollars after Google employees — responding to a New York Times story about Rubin’s golden parachute — staged a high-profile walkout, according to The San Jose Mercury News.
Bottini said the suit is based on minutes of board meetings that were obtained from Alphabet
“The conduct of Rubin and other executives was disgusting, illegal, immoral, degrading to women, and contrary to every principle that Google claims it abides by,” the lawsuit argues.
Google did not respond to the Mercury News’ request for comment.
Ellen Stross, a lawyer for Rubin, said the suit “mischaracterizes Andy’s departure from Google and sensationalizes claims made about Andy by his ex-wife.”
Rubin left Google of his own volition, Stross said.
“Andy denies any misconduct, and we look forward to telling his story in court,” she said.
Google admitted last fall that it had fired 48 people over two years for sexual harassment, a number that included 13 top managers. However, it said, none were given severance packages.
The lawsuit claims that Alphabet’s directors “feared that if they fired Rubin for cause, he would sue Google for wrongful termination and all the tawdry details of sexual harassment by senior executives at Google would become public.”
The lawsuit argues that Google employs a double standard when it comes to sexual harassment.
“If you were a high‐level male executive at Google responsible for generating millions of dollars in revenue, Google would let you engage in sexual harassment. And if you get caught, Google would keep it quiet, let you resign, and pay you millions of dollars in severance,” the suit said.
“On the other hand, if you were a low‐level employee at Google and were accused of sexual harassment or discrimination, you would be fired for cause with no severance benefits. In this way, Alphabet and the Board were able to maintain optics and superficial compliance with its code of conduct, internal rules, and laws regarding sexual harassment. By appearing to take decisive action against a significant number of low‐level employees, and by concealing the blatant and widespread sexual harassment by senior Google executives, the Board avoided a much bigger scandal,” the lawsuit alleged.
One attorney said Google is not the only employer that needs to change.
“There really needs to be a massive change not only at Google but also many Silicon Valley companies, where we know it’s the same old boys’ club even today, even after all the MeToo that has transpired,” lawyer Ann Ravel said.
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