National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) has submitted a shareholder proposal to Alphabet, the parent company of Google, addressing the issue of sexual harassment. Last week, Google announced that it would end its policy of requiring mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims. The move apparently prompted similar actions by Facebook, eBay and Airbnb.
The Alphabet annual meeting is expected to take place in June. We hope that the company will embrace our resolution to demonstrate its commitment to dealing with this problem. If the company does not support it, we call upon fellow shareholders to act.
NLPC sponsors the Corporate Integrity Project. Here is the text of the resolution and supporting statement:
WHEREAS, Company executives have aggressively allied themselves with a variety of progressive social and political causes at the same time sexual harassment is alleged to be a serious problem within the Company by many of the Company’s own employees.
This hypocrisy threatens the Company’s reputation. The fate of The Weinstein Company LLC, which has declared bankruptcy, underscores this risk.
Several public companies have lost billions in market capitalization shortly after executives have been accused of sexual misconduct, prompting lawsuits by shareholders.
Recent events have placed the Company’s policies and practices under scrutiny. In December 2017, then-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors Eric Schmidt abruptly and unexpectedly stepped down but retained his board seat.
In November 2018, thousands of Company employees walked out in response to a New York Times story that the Company had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to executives accused of harassment but stayed silent about the actual events.
The Company can take measures to manage and improve risk oversight and by doing so, signal to employees – and investors – that the Board and management are committed to ensuring a safe workplace.
RESOLVED, Shareholders request management review its policies related to sexual harassment to assess whether the Company needs to adopt and implement additional policies and to report its findings, omitting proprietary information and prepared at a reasonable expense by December 31, 2019.
Such a report might include:
- A review of policies and procedures to confirm that effective grievance mechanisms are in place and are being publicized within the Company, and that material penalties exist and are being appropriately enforced.
- Disclosure of the number of firings and disciplinary actions short of termination taken by the Company as a result of these policies.
- Disclosure of information about sexual harassment financial settlements, omitting names of the parties but including the number of settlements, the aggregate dollar amount of settlements, statistics on the management level of the alleged perpetrator, and statistics on the general nature of the alleged offenses.
- A review of executive compensation structures analyzing how performance can be linked to a reduction in sexual harassment within the Company.
- A review of employment recruitment efforts in terms of how they achieve ideological, political, religious and geographical diversity. A less monolithic Company culture, where differences are actually celebrated and respected, will create a more inclusive workplace.