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Google Will No Longer Force Workers to Arbitrate in Discrimination Cases

February 22, 2019, 11:34 AM UTC

Last year, following mass employee walkouts, Google ended its much-loathed policy of forced arbitration for workers who complain about sexual harassment—Facebook swiftly followed suit. But Google did not agree to employee’s demands for an end to forced arbitration in discrimination cases, nor in general.

Now it has. On Thursday the company said it would no longer ban employees from taking their complaints to court, rather than having to take them to arbitration forums. The policy will change on March 21.

At the moment, Google’s employee contracts include forced arbitration clauses, as is the case with many companies.

There are many problems with forced arbitration: such systems lack transparency; there’s no right of appeal; and they obviate the possibility of workers joining class-action lawsuits over issues such as harassment and racial discrimination. They also discourage whistleblowing.

The change at Google will not allow lawsuits in cases where claims have already been settled. As Axios noted when breaking the news, the company is not forcing a similar change on the firms that supply its temporary and contract workers either. Alphabet’s other subsidiaries that do not fall under the Google umbrella will also not see a similar change.

Nonetheless, the campaigners against Google’s forced arbitration clauses savored their success on Thursday.

“This victory never would have happened if workers hadn’t banded together, supported one another, and walked out,” tweeted the Google Walkout account. “Collective action works. Worker power works. This is still just the beginning.”