Google says it fired 48 for sexual harassment over two years

Google says it has been taking "an increasingly hard line" on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of power. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Google said on Thursday (Oct 25) that it fired 48 employees in the past two years, including 13 senior executives, as a result of sexual harassment allegations, citing "an increasingly hard line" on inappropriate conduct.

The US tech giant issued the statement from chief executive Sundar Pichai in response to a New York Times report that one senior Google employee, Android creator Andy Rubin, received an exit package worth US$90 million (S$124 million) as he faced allegations of misconduct, and that Google had covered up other claims of sexual harassment.

Asked by AFP and other media for its reaction, Google released an e-mail sent to employees from Mr Pichai stating that 48 people had been terminated for sexual harassment in the past two years, including 13 who were senior managers and above, and that none received "an exit package".

"In recent years, we've made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority," Mr Pichai said.

He added that the report on Mr Rubin and others "was difficult to read" but he did not directly address the claims in the article.

"We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace," he said.

"We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action."

Mr Sam Singer, a spokesman for Mr Rubin, rejected the allegations against him in a statement to AFP, saying Mr Rubin left Google of his own accord to launch venture capital firm and technology incubator Playground.

Mr Rubin went on to found smartphone company Essential. The Android operating system, which Google makes available to device makers free of charge, powers about 85 per cent of the world's smartphones.

The New York Times cited court documents and interviews while reporting that Mr Rubin was one of three senior executives that Google has shielded in the past decade after complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The Times cited two unnamed Google executives as saying that then chief executive Larry Page asked for Mr Rubin's resignation after the company confirmed a complaint by a woman about a sexual encounter in a hotel in 2013.

A Google investigation found the woman's complaint credible, the Times reported.

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