Google, and parent company, Alphabet are now facing new pressures over past sexual harassment allegations, although this time the pressure is being exerted within the legal system.
A lawsuit has been filed against Alphabet’s board of directors by company shareholders, citing the company’s actions have “caused severe financial and reputational damage to both Google and Alphabet.”
The lawsuit, filed on the behalf of James Martin today in San Mateo Superior Court in California, claims those at the top of the Google and Alphabet hierarchy actively worked to cover up sexual harassment claims against other high-ranking employees.
The allegations stem from a report back in 2018 which looked to shine a light on the past working environment at Google and how the company failed to do all it could to protect employees, or to discipline those who were accused of serious sexual harassment allegations.
The report pointed to a number of instances that were said to have taken place and included allegations against Amit Singhal and Andy Rubin.
Rubin’s involvement in particular spearheaded much of the conversation, and does so in this latest lawsuit due to the abnormal amount of money paid to Rubin when he finally did exit the company. An exit which is understood to have come about due to an internal investigation having found the allegations against Rubin to be credible.
One of the actions sought by the lawsuit is for proper clarity on how much “compensation” was actually paid to those accused of these accusations. In addition, the lawsuit looks to recoup compensation not only paid to Rubin, but also to others who the lawsuit claims facilitated the cover up in one way or another.
Those accused of “knowingly or recklessly” breaching their duties to the company include Alphabet CEO, Larry Page and Google CEO, Sundar Pichai.
This is in addition to the seeking of an unspecified amount for damages done to the company.
The lawsuit also hopes to change the voting system within the company as it claims the current “dual class structure” benefits and protects the likes of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, more than it does Alphabet as a whole, or the company's shareholders. Due to Brin and Page’s votes carrying not just more weight, but enough weight to shift company decisions continuously in their favor.
In an attempt to further balance the claimed shift of power at Alphabet, the lawsuit also seeks to permit the non-management shareholders to nominate “at least three” new board members.
Since the claims came to light, Google has been taking actions to make the case publicly that times have changed. Including public statements by Pichai explaining how the claims came as a surprise and how Google has changed for the better under his tenure. With Picahi also stating how 48 employees had been fired in the last two years alone over sexual harassment.
Besides the legal issues, the lawsuit directly attacks Google on a moralistic basis, stating the company employed a “dual and contradictory standard” where high level male employees were treated differently to low-level employees.
The suggesting being Google was happy to cover up allegations if you were “generating millions of dollars in revenue” for the company, but would take immediate and definitive action if you wasn’t. Actions which the lawsuit states led to board members becoming “direct enablers” who not only violated California and federal law, but also the company’s own ethical standards and guidelines.