September 25, 2020

Google parent company Alphabet Inc. has agreed to settle a shareholder lawsuit filed by two union pension funds that said the technology company breached its fiduciary duties in covering up a data breach and allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

The lawsuit was originally filed in January 2019 in a California Superior Court in San Jose by the Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan, Concord, Calif., and Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund, New York, alleging the company's management "fostered a 'brogrammer' culture, where women are sexually harassed and valued less than their male counterparts," the filing said.

The settlement agreement filed Friday includes policy reforms to improve board oversight and workplace equity; a diversity, equity and inclusion advisory council that includes Alphabet executives and outside experts; and a $310 million fund for other DEI initiatives over the next 10 years.

“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 non-disclosure agreements that silence victims and enable powerful harassers,” said Julie Goldsmith Reiser, partner at plaintiffs' attorney Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, in a news release announcing the settlement. “These changes, along with the financial commitment to DEI initiatives, position Alphabet to lead as much in workplace equity as it is does in technology and innovation.”

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