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Google announces an end to forced arbitration for workers

The technology giant Google announced on Feb. 21 that that would no longer prevent its employees from joining together to file class-action lawsuits against the company over workplace issues. Google workers in New York and around the country will also no longer be required to litigate discrimination and wrongful termination disputes through arbitration. The move is the latest effort by the Mountain View-based company to relax restrictions that prompted widespread worker protests in November.

About 20,000 Google workers around the world walked out of their offices after it was revealed that the company had given a former executive an exit package worth approximately $90 million. Employees reacted angrily to the news because the executive had been implicated in a sexual harassment scandal. The workers called for an end to mandatory arbitration because the sessions take place behind closed doors. This, according to the workers, leads to serious workplace issues being buried or ignored instead of confronted and resolved.

Many companies favor arbitration because it saves them money in legal fees and allows them to keep embarrassing allegations out of the public eye. However, forcing workers to settle discrimination, wrongful termination, or harassment disputes through arbitration has been widely criticized. Google's announcement comes just a few days before legislation prohibiting mandatory arbitration is scheduled to be introduced in the House and Senate, and some observers believe that the company may have acted to avoid further scrutiny from Congress.

Workers who have signed employment contracts containing arbitration provisions may wish to consult with an attorney before filing a discrimination or harassment claim. Attorneys with experience in this area could scrutinize the contract and provide advice about the best way to proceed. Attorneys may also help workers to gather documents and other evidence that could support their claims and advocate on their behalf during hearings.

Source: Wired, "Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Employee Protest", Nitasha Tiku, Feb. 21, 2019

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