Fireproof your Employment Contracts and Policies to avoid Staff Rebellion

Employers should undertake an urgent review of the way they are dealing with workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination matters.  The recent high profile cases and campaigns have highlighted the variations in the way such challenging issues are dealt with in different organisations .  The #me too campaign has revealed the extent of sexual harassment and bullying in the film industry and the exposure of extent of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged behaviour.  It is not too fanciful to say that this appears to have prompted employees in other sectors to complain.  The allegations against Sir Philip Green would probably not have surfaced but for the #me too campaign. 

The reported walkout by Google staff across their global locations is driven by Google’s own policies and methods of dealing with potentially contentious issues involving harassment and bullying.  The Google staff has decided that such employment contract clauses as forced arbitration are no longer acceptable as in the eyes of the workforce as this practice is only in place to protect the employer and the accused and removes the complainant’s right to legal action.  A list of changes has been compiled by the staff requesting:

  1. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality
  2. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report
  3. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously
  4. The elevation of the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO, and make recommendations directly to the board of directors
  5. The appointment of an employee representative to the board
  6. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.

Whilst Google may feel that they have been unfairly targeted, they cannot avoid the fact that some of their policies appear favour the employer rather than the employee victims.  The revelations arising from the actions of the Google staff have now given away that at least one executive has left the firm with a $90 million settlement following accusations of sexual harassment and that another executive also left after similar accusations and mostly likely with a comparable pay-off and that a further 48 have left following similar accusations.  So Google’s strategies for limiting certain information and attitudes escaping into the public domain have spectacularly blown up in its face with everything now exposed. Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, has so far taken a supportive line towards the staff implying that society’s attitude has influenced the culture within Google and that he is committed to change.

The walkout by Google staff was reminiscent of the walkout by TGI Friday’s restaurants over the dispersal of customer tips, by three restaurants, Stratford City, Covent Garden and Milton Keynes.  Similarly, McDonald’s staff and J D Wetherspoon staff from two Brighton pubs joined forces over a demand for a pay increase.  Whilst the numbers were relatively small, the idea of a short term synchronised walk out, rather than a full blown strike may be the tactic of the future.

The lawyers in Giambrone’s employment team recommend all businesses to conduct an audit of its own procedures to see if there are any obvious deficiencies in light of current attitudes, reviewing their contracts and policies, conducting spot checks on staff behaviour and levelling the playing field as far as the hot potato of gender equal pay is concerned in order to close down any risk,   The last thing any employer wants is to be in the headlines over their treatment of staff when they have suffered harassment and bullying.

For further information about workplace bullying or sexual harassment or any other issue please email or telephone 020 7183 9482