Alphabet scrutinizing handling of misconduct claims

Google CEO Sundar Pichai with his wife Anjali Pichai. (AFP)
Updated 07 November 2019

Alphabet scrutinizing handling of misconduct claims

SAN FRANCISCO: Google’s parent company Alphabet has confirmed that its board is investigating how executives handled accusations of misconduct including sexual harassment.

“In early 2019, Alphabet’s board of directors formed a special litigation committee to consider claims made by shareholders in various lawsuits relating to past workplace conduct,” said an Alphabet spokesperson.

The board hired a law firm to help the committee, which was to contact those who filed complaints and scrutinize cases, including one involving the Alphabet chief legal officer, according to a CNBC report citing unspecified material it had seen.

Google in November outlined changes to its handling of sexual misconduct complaints, hoping to calm outrage that triggered a worldwide walkout of workers.

“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said at the time in a message to employees, a copy of which was shared with AFP.

“It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Pichai promised that Google would be more transparent with how concerns are dealt with, and provide better support and care to those who raise such issues with the company.

Google would provide “more granularity” regarding sexual harassment investigations and their outcomes, according to Pichai.

Google announced updates to its mandatory sexual harassment training and said it would require it annually instead of every two years, as had been the case.

Google also put the onus on team leaders to tighten the tap on booze at company events, on or off campus, to curtail the potential for drunken misbehavior.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Chief Executive Sundar Pichai promised that Google would be more transparent with how concerns are dealt with, and provide better support and care to those who raise such issues with the company.

• Google would provide ‘more granularity’ regarding sexual harassment investigations and their outcomes, according to Pichai.

Despite the assurances, shareholders filed lawsuits against Alphabet accusing it of covering up sexual misconduct.

Thousands of Google employees joined a coordinated worldwide walkout late last year to protest the US tech giant’s handling of sexual harassment.

A massive turnout at the “Googleplex” in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia and spread to Google offices in Europe.

Some 20,000 Google employees and contractors participated in the protest in 50 cities around the world, according to organizers.

The protest took shape after Google said it had fired 48 employees in the prior two years — including 13 senior executives — as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Demands by protesters included putting employee representation on the board.


Innovation jobs flocking to a handful of US cities

Updated 09 December 2019

Innovation jobs flocking to a handful of US cities

  • Economists fear job clustering could have a “destructive” influence on society

WASHINGTON: A new analysis of where “innovation” jobs are being created in the US paints a stark portrait of a divided economy where the industries seen as key to future growth cluster in a narrowing set of places.

Divergence in job growth, incomes and future prospects between strong-performing cities and the rest of the country is an emerging focus of political debate and economic research. It is seen as a source of social stress, particularly since President Donald Trump tapped the resentment of left-behind areas in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Research from the Brookings Institution released on Monday shows the problem cuts deeper than many thought. Even cities that have performed well in terms of overall employment growth, such as Dallas, are trailing in attracting workers in 13 industries with the most productive private sector jobs.

Between 2005 and 2017, industries such as chemical manufacturing, satellite telecommunications and scientific research flocked to about 20 cities, led by well-established standouts San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Boston and San Diego, the study found. Combined, these mostly coastal cities captured an additional 6 percent of “innovation” jobs — some 250,000 positions.

Companies in those industries tend to benefit from being close to each other, with the better-educated employees they target also attracted to urban amenities.

Brookings Institution economist Mark Muro said he fears the trend risks becoming “self-reinforcing and destructive” as the workforce separates into a group of highly productive and high-earning metro areas and everywhere else.

Even though expensive housing, high wages, and congestion have prompted some tech companies to open offices outside of Silicon Valley, those moves have not been at scale. Most US metro areas are either losing innovation industry jobs outright or gaining no share, Muro wrote.

Over this decade, “a clear hierarchy of economic performance based on innovation capacity had become deeply entrenched,” Muro and co-author Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote in the report. Across the 13 industries they studied, workers in the upper echelon of cities were about 50 percent more productive than in others.

For much of the post-World War Two period labor was more mobile, and the types of industries driving the economy did not cluster so intensely, a trend that started reversing around 1980.

Concerns that the US is separating effectively into two economies has sparked support for localized efforts to spread the benefits of economic growth.

The Federal Reserve has flagged it as a possible risk to overall growth, and some of the presidential candidates running for office in 2020 have rolled out proposals to address it. One aim of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imports from China and elsewhere is to revive ailing areas of the country.