TORONTO – Google employees in Canada streamed out of the tech giant’s offices in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo as part of an international act of defiance meant to protest the company’s treatment of women and alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct.
About two dozen workers, some wearing company T-shirts beneath their jackets, left the tech giant’s Montreal office and at least one hundred exited the company’s Toronto office just after 11 a.m. local time.
In the middle of a rainstorm, those in Toronto walked to a nearby greenspace, where they spent about 15 minutes reading pages of stories from anonymous Google employees alleging rampant sexism and mishandling of misbehaviour at Google.
“Time’s up on sexual harassment, time’s up on abusive power and time’s up on systemic racism. We are here to say enough is enough,” said a Google employee in Toronto, who refused to give her name or say which offices the handful of stories she read came from. “I have had to hear about and watch so many people leave the company after experiencing mistreatment and harassment and have seen women unable to get a promotion until they wither and leave.”
The Canadian employees joined thousands of Google workers across the globe who staged walkouts everywhere from Dublin to Tokyo, Singapore and London. Hundreds filed out of Google’s New York office and thousands more were expected to follow suit when the clock hit 11 a.m. in their time zones.
The walkout came in the wake of a New York Times story that detailed allegations of sexual misconduct against a handful of Google employees including Android software creator Andy Rubin and Richard DeVaul, a director at Google’s X lab, which has worked on self-driving car and internet-beaming balloon projects.
The New York Times said Rubin, who has denied the allegations in a tweet, received a $90-million severance package in 2014 after Google concluded the allegations against him were credible.
The allegations the publication levelled against DeVaul resulted in him resigning Tuesday without severance, Google has said.
As employees left the company’s offices, Google released a statement to The Canadian Press from its chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, who said that he was aware of the walkout and had let employees know the day before that the company will support them if they feel the need to participate.
“Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and processes going forward,” he said. “We are taking their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
Google Canada spokesman Aaron Brindle said in an email that the company employees about 400 workers in Toronto and another 100 in Montreal, meaning a roughly a quarter of each office walked out. He said those who participated in the walkout would not be penalized and noted that many senior leaders from the company took part.
Some who participated in the walkout said they would not be returning to work that day, while others were seen headed back into Google’s offices shortly after.
In several cities, employees refused to talk with media, but in Montreal, one man, who declined to give his name, citing job security, said, “The action speaks for itself.”