Google’s head of human resources, Eileen Naughton, will step down later this year amid rising tensions between the company’s top executives and rank and file employees.
Naughton, who has been at the company for 14 years, four of which have been as vice president of people operations, has had to deal with intensifying employee anger over the company’s alleged handling of sexual harassment claims, the firing of employees who organized protests against the company, and the elimination of weekly all-hands meetings at which employees confronted executives about sensitive topics (the meetings are now monthly, and the permitted topics are limited). She’s also had to manage worker complaints about the company’s decision to work on secret projects like a censored search engine for China and a lack of employee diversity.
Google told Fortune that Naughton is relinquishing her post to be closer to her family. The company said she will take another role within Google, but it did not provide a specific date or disclose what job she will take.
Sundar Pichai, who was recently elevated to lead Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and chief financial officer Ruth Porat plan to search for Naughton’s replacement both internally and externally, with Naughton helping with the transition.
“I’m at the very beginning of the process, and wanted to let everyone know upfront,” Naughton said in statement about her plans to step down. “I’ll be working with Sundar and Ruth to find a great leader for the people operations team.“
Last month, David Drummond, the top lawyer for Alphabet, stepped down following claims that he had inappropriate relationships with coworkers. One woman, a subordinate who allegedly had Drummond’s baby, wrote a Medium post expressing her frustration about how the situation was handled by Drummond and the company, which she claimed did little to resolve the matter.
In 2018, 20,000 Google employees walked out for several hours over Google’s alleged mismanagement of sexual misconduct complaints. The event was a huge turning point in the tech industry, which continues to face backlash from workers.
In the months that followed, Naughton led an effort to make it easier for employees to report misconduct. She also introduced a new program that allows victims to bring a buddy with them to HR when filing a complaint as well as during the investigative process.
Naughton also tried to respond to criticism about how Google treated its U.S. temp workers and vendors, who lacked many of the generous benefits enjoyed by staff. She implemented new standards that included a $15 minimum wage, healthcare, and parental leave for non-employees who worked at the company.
Despite Naughton’s efforts, Google’s problems with its workers continue, with current and former employee activists regularly taking to Twitter and Medium to air their concerns.
Naughton’s leadership of HR coincided with a huge period of growth a Google. Its workforce grew by more than 65% to nearly 119,000 globally, the equivalent of a small city.
Along with former Google executive Sheryl Sandberg, Naughton helped establish an employee resource group called Women@ in 2011 that has become one of Google’s largest with more than 10,000 global members.
Prior to serving as HR chief, Naughton held various leadership positions, based in Mountain View, Calif., London, and New York, including vice president of sales and operations in the U.K. and Ireland, vice president of global sales, and managing director of media strategy and operations for the Americas.
“Over the past 13 years, Eileen has made major contributions to the company in numerous areas,” Pichai said in a statement to Fortune. “We’re grateful to Eileen for all she’s done and look forward to her next chapter at Google.”
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