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Google employees are launching a social media blitz to pressure tech giants on workplace harassment issues

The group wants tech companies to stop restricting workers’ right to take companies to court over employer-related issues.

Google building in New York with a pedestrian and a taxi in front of it. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

A group of Google employees is taking to Instagram and Twitter on Tuesday, January 15, to pressure tech companies to change their practices related to workplace harassment in the tech industry.

The campaign aims to highlight the problems with companies using forced arbitration agreements, a common clause buried in employment contracts that strips workers of their right to take their employers to court over issues in the workplace. While several tech companies such as Google recently stopped the practice for sexual harassment and assault, it’s still used and enforced by many tech companies for cases related to other workplace issues like racial or religious discrimination.

Studies have shown that employees are less likely to win against employers in cases of arbitration rather than through the court system. And even when they do win in arbitration, they usually end up getting less money than they might through litigation.

The campaign is another example of the growing movement of tech employees publicly critiquing industry-wide practices they say are leading to inequality in the workplace. The tech industry has for years seen abysmal diversity statistics related to employment of female and underrepresented minorities in its workforce. Supporters of the campaign say that ending forced arbitration is a key step to creating a fairer workplace culture that will help curb such disparity.

From 9 am to 6 pm ET on Tuesday, the group plans to share facts about forced arbitration every hour on Twitter, as well as testimonials from employees and interviews with experts every half hour on Instagram.

In November, 20,000 Google employees walked out of work in protest of the companies’ handling of sexual harassment, listing an end to forced arbitration as their chief demand. Soon after, Google announced it would change its policy to stop enforcing the practice in cases of sexual harassment and assault. Several other major tech companies followed suit.

The leaders behind the movement, however, say this did not go far enough since forced arbitration still exists for other types of workplace harassment and discrimination issues that aren’t sexual in nature. Many major tech companies also still require employees to waive their rights to a class action lawsuit, which prevents employees from joining forces and sharing legal costs.

As part of the effort, the group organizing the campaign researched the contracts of around 30 major tech companies and 10 of the biggest suppliers of contract employees for major tech companies. Not a single tech company met their basic criteria for protecting employees’ rights to pursue legal action against their companies for workplace issues, the group said.

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