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Google Ends Mandatory Arbitration in $310M Sexual Harassment Settlement

The Recorder

September 25, 2020

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C., and Bottini & Bottini helped negotiate the settlement.

Google parent company Alphabet has agreed to devote $310 million to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as part of a settlement with shareholders after several executives in the company, including its former top lawyer, faced allegations of sexual misconduct or discrimination.

The deal, announced Friday, settles a stockholder derivative lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court in January 2019. Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C., and Berman Tobacco in San Francisco represented plaintiffs in the suit who claimed Google fostered a “culture of concealment” that led to cover-ups of sexual harassment at the highest levels of the company.

The settlement put an end to Google’s policy of mandatory arbitration over harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims. It also limits the use of nondisclosure agreements so that the tech company’s employees can openly discuss the facts of an incident and the reporting process.

“The settlement fundamentally alters Alphabet’s workplace policies, including eliminating mandatory arbitration in harassment, discrimination and retaliation-related disputes and the use of one-sided nondisclosure agreements that silence victims and enable powerful harassers,” said Cohen Milstein’s Julie Goldsmith Reiser, one of four plaintiffs’ counsel appointed to lead the global settlement negotiations, in a statement. “These changes, along with the financial commitment to DEI initiatives, position Alphabet to lead as much in workplace equity as it is does [sic] in technology and innovation.”

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