SAN FRANCISCO • Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai has sought to reassure employees of the Internet giant after a newspaper reported a former top executive was paid millions of dollars when he left despite allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct.
In the past two years, 48 people have been fired for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above, Mr Pichai and Ms Eileen Naughton, vice-president of people operations, wrote in an e-mail to staff.
None of these individuals received an exit package, they added.
"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.
A Google employee had accused then Android chief Andy Rubin of coercing her into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013, the New York Times reported.
Google investigated, concluded her claim was credible, and asked Mr Rubin to resign.
The company could have fired Mr Rubin and paid him little to nothing, but instead paid him a US$90 million (S$124 million) exit package and did not say anything publicly, the newspaper reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the episode.
The Android creator, whose start-up Essential Products Inc was said to have cut about 30 per cent of its employees recently, took to Twitter to decry what he called a smear campaign.
"Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room," Mr Rubin tweeted. "Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts."
The New York Times also reported other instances where Google protected executives who had been accused of sexual misconduct, or ousted alleged offenders but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed.
Google has updated its policy to require all vice-presidents and senior vice-presidents to disclose any relationship with a co-worker regardless of reporting line or presence of conflict, wrote Mr Pichai and Ms Naughton on Thursday.
"We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action," they added.