Tech Workers Suspect Harassment Payouts

Ethical culture warriors, reflect on this: a new survey of technology workers finds that one-third of them believe their companies give generous payouts to employees leaving amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

The survey was conducted by Blind, an online social network that allows employees to talk about their companies anonymously. Blind simply asked: “True or false: I believe my company has given generous exit packages to employees who left due to allegations of sexual misconduct.”

Well, more than 4,500 workers from the tech sector participated. Overall, 33 percent said they did believe harassers were sent packing with a big final paycheck. Among 11 large individual tech companies, that percentage ranged from a high of 69 percent (at Google) to a low of 21 percent (at Facebook).

The company-by-company breakdown is as follows:

Google topping the list should be no surprise, because the company has given generous payouts to executives accused of sexual misconduct. The New York Times reported as much on Oct. 25, with an in-depth look at millions of dollars Google has paid to said senior executives accused of misconduct. (Mid-level and low-level Google executives, it should be noted, were fired without generous severance.) Employee disgust over that news led to an employee walkout on Nov. 1 to protest the payouts.

Blind launched its survey on that same day, running it until Nov. 5. So I do wonder how accurate those results might be (it’s an anonymous survey, after all), or whether people’s answers were colored by a heightened sense of outrage prompted by the Google exposé.

Still — the perception of organizational injustice seems to be prevalent among tech workers, and perception is what matters for corporate culture. So ethics and compliance officers, along with your friends in the HR department, may want to ponder the significance of this survey for your own company and determine whether you have a PPPP: predator payout perception problem.

Forced Arbitration

Along similar lines, Blind also conducted a survey of tech workers in September asking them whether companies should end forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts. Forced arbitration — along with its close cousins, the non-disclosure agreement and the non-disparagement clause — has been one of the main tools companies use to keep sexual misconduct swept under the rug.

No surprise: workers hate this stuff. Blind surveyed more than 5,500 of its users, and 71.5 percent wanted their companies to end forced arbitration. That wasn’t just arbitration for sexual misconduct complaints, either; they were opposed to forced arbitration for any reason whatsoever.

Again, the company-by-company breakdown:

Microsoft announced last year that it would end forced arbitration and NDAs for complaints related to sexual harassment or misconduct. Google just did the same, although reaching that conclusion after a front-page story in the New York Times and an employee walkout seems a bit anticlimactic.

Still, times are changing. Employees can speak up about ethical practices at their companies in more unison, and at higher volume. Companies will have to listen.

The smartest ones might even, ya know, think about ethical practices and culture before tensions reach a boiling point.

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