When it first began its meteoric rise as perhaps the world's most influential company, Google was known as a great place to work. Its relaxed, creative atmosphere made it appear as if Google was a dream job for up-and-coming developers, designers, and forward-thinkers in tech. But jobs at Google, and the tech sector in general, may not be as worker-friendly as advertised. For example, last November 20,000 Google workers staged a walkout to protest Google's internal handling of sexual harassment claims.
The walkout was organized by seven Google employees, two of whom are now claiming that Google has retaliated against them in various ways, including demoting one of them them. In response, the two employees have organized a town hall meeting at Google on Friday, April 26. In their communication to colleagues announcing the meeting, the employees wrote that "during the Walkout, we collected 350 stories. Reading them, a sad pattern emerges: People who stand up and report discrimination, abuse, and unethical conduct are punished, sidelined, and pushed out. Perpetrators often go unimpeded, or are even rewarded."
Numerous employment issues face tech workers
Tech companies are no longer viewed as forward-thinking organizations that have put things like wage theft, discrimination, and retaliation behind them. Increasingly, it has become clear that tech giants, tech startups, and any company in the tech sector face the same issues that continue to plague companies in other sectors. In recent years, tech workers have reported issues with:
- Forced arbitration in employment agreements
- Worker misclassification and wage theft
- Discrimination against women and minority groups
These complaints are not specific to a single instance or to Google alone. Video game developers and designers have reported numerous complaints about long hours and worker misclassification, for example. Whether you are a developer, a designer or, as in the case of one of the Google workers above, head of an artificial intelligence ethics group, the reality is that you need to proactively assert your rights.
As a Google employee wrote in the company's internal mailing list, "Only after I hired a lawyer and had her contact Google did management conduct an investigation and walk back my demotion, at least on paper."