Google Walkout Organiser Quits Following Alleged Workplace Retaliation

By Patrick Howell O'Neill on at

A Google employee who helped organise last year’s 20,000 worker walkout left the company last week and said she’s faced professional retaliation as a result of her speaking out.

Claire Stapleton, a YouTube marketing manager, helped organise a worker walkout after a New York Times article reported that Google paid a $90 million exit package for Android creator Andy Rubin as he left the company due to sexual harassment allegations.

Here’s Claire tweeting about her departure:

In addition to Google’s pay off to Rubin, the incident sparked storms of controversy around Google’s policies around sexual harassment reporting, pay equality, mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment cases and the role of the company’s chief diversity officer.

The walkout occurred on 1 November 2018, and included around 20,000 Google employees in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The company has changed some of its mandatory arbitration policies following the action.

Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker, another walkout organiser who works at Google’s Open Research artificial intelligence project, have said they both experienced retaliation as a result of their speaking out and organising. Google denied the accusations.

Stapleton has said that two months after the walkout, Google told her that she “would be demoted, that I’d lose half my reports, and that a project that was approved was no longer on the table.” When the issue was escalated, it “made things significantly worse” and she was told to take medical leave. When Stapleton retained a lawyer, she said, the demotion was reversed. Google denied that any such retaliation took place.

“We thank Claire for her work at Google and wish her all the best,” the company said in a statement to Gizmodo. “To reiterate, we don’t tolerate retaliation. Our employee relations team did a thorough investigation of her claims and found no evidence of retaliation. They found that Claire’s management team supported her contributions to our workplace, including awarding her their team Culture Award for her role in the Walkout.”

On Friday, Stapleton published a post on Medium announcing her departure from Google. She shared an internal email outlining her decade of work at Google that went from feeling like “a privilege” to an environment that had become “different, cagier, less satisfying.”

She took issue with Google’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Andy Rubin as well as the worker fury when the story became public including an ongoing lack of accountability. Google’s outright denial of her story, she said, resonated with others who have been through similar experiences.

“It pains me greatly to leave because I care so much about this company, its people, and the power it wields in the world,” she wrote. “The short explanation for my decision is my health: I’m having another baby in the fall (I acknowledge that there’s incredible privilege in being able to walk away from a job like this). I made the choice after the heads of my department branded me with a kind of scarlet letter that makes it difficult to do my job or find another one.”

Featured image: Mason Trinca (Getty)