SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Around 100 Google employees in the US who are involved in cyberbullying in the company have joined forces to propose new guidelines for behavior at Alphabet Inc.
Three current employees and two other employees help with the organization of the group I said that it was formed last fall. They said that among their proposals, which have not been widely reported so far, is that Google should tighten up codes of conduct for internal forums and hire staff to enforce them.
They said that they want to end blatant conversations and personal attacks on the forums and see punishment for people who regularly throw discussions off track or lose talks. The group also wants Google to list the rights and responsibilities of prosecutors, defendants, managers and investigators in personnel matters.
The Group also wants better protection for staff affected by alleged, disingenuous human resources complaints that are used as mobbing tactics and incentives.
The organizers say that Google should be better prepared when people who cause hostility or express views that are in line with the company's stated values try to engage in discussions about race, gender and other sensitive issues.
The group informally talks to mid-level executives in the hope that they will take on the business, said the organizers. Self-described conservatives at Google have also voiced their own concerns.
The separation between Google employees reflects the growing polarization in the United States since the election of President Donald Trump. Other companies and industries are affected by corporate diversity and harassment scandals.
Google relies on an open dialogue to strengthen products and morale, and boasts of promoting an environment in which subordinates can challenge managers. In the private online discussion forums debates on politics and science flow freely.
But discussions have become more hostile and insulting since an engineer wrote in internal forums last summer that women are biologically unfit for technology jobs. Google fired engineer James Damore for maintaining stereotypes, which led to heated conversations.
Campaign organizers said at least 100 people had participated in private and online discussions about possible fixes. But they also said that Google could wait to change the guidelines until the latest lawsuits from Damore and others are resolved.
"My employees and I have the right to compromise a safe workplace," said Liz Fong-Jones, a senior organizer of Local Security. She said that employees experience stress and fear of physical reprisals as internal discussions reach the media, sometimes with authors' names.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano declined to comment on the proposals, but said the company is already limiting what employees at work say.
"We enforce strict policies and work with affected employees to ensure that everyone can do their job free from harassment, discrimination and bullying," she said.
Matt Stone, a software engineer at Google who was on disability leave last year, said he had returned to a "foreign environment" in January where protective measures for disabled and transsexual people were under debate.
"We were besieged in a war that we did not even know we were in a war we did not want," he said. "We want it to stop."
Two other employees said they had reduced their contributions to company forums for fear of becoming bigger targets. It is not clear whether the debate on internal harassment has influenced employee attitudes and retention.
Fong-Jones said Google's nationwide organizers have received leadership training and media strategy and labor rights advice from coworker.org online petitioning service that has helped employees at Starbucks Corp and other companies work in the workplace.
Self-described conservatives at Google, often clashing with the organizing group, have made their own proposals, including encouraging the company to clarify forum rules and protect employees from retaliation, according to Damore's unfair dismissal lawsuit in January filed.
Damore's lawyer Harmeet Dhillon said she spoke with current Google employees and believed that an internal "witch hunt" against employees expressing unpopular views became aggressive after Trump's 2016 election.
"Reacting to Damo's memo was not his adversary in order to engage in a dialogue or argue with him, but to lose his memo, attacking him personally and working to get him threatened and fired – casually, without hesitation, maliciously, "said Dhillon by email.
Reporting by Paresh Dave; Arrangement by Peter Henderson, Jonathan Weber and David Gregorio