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How Google Protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’

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Whatever happened to “Don’t be evil”? .. Oh, yeah: they dropped that.

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Katie Benner report in the NY Times:

Google gave Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software, a hero’s farewell when he left the company in October 2014.

“I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” Larry Page, Google’s chief executive then, said in a public statement. “With Android he created something truly remarkable — with a billion-plus happy users.”

What Google did not make public was that an employee had accused Mr. Rubin of sexual misconduct. The woman, with whom Mr. Rubin had been having an extramarital relationship, said he coerced her into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013, according to two company executives with knowledge of the episode. Google investigated and concluded her claim was credible, said the people, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing confidentiality agreements. Mr. Rubin was notified, they said, and Mr. Page asked for his resignation.

Google could have fired Mr. Rubin and paid him little to nothing on the way out. Instead, the company handed him a $90 million exit package, paid in installments of about $2 million a month for four years, said two people with knowledge of the terms. The last payment is scheduled for next month.

Mr. Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct. In two instances, it ousted senior executives, but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed, even though it had no legal obligation to do so. In a third, the executive remained in a highly compensated post at the company. Each time Google stayed silent about the accusations against the men.

The New York Times obtained corporate and court documents and spoke to more than three dozen current and former Google executives and employees about the episodes, including some people directly involved in handling them. Most asked to remain anonymous because they were bound by confidentiality agreements or feared retribution for speaking out.

The transgressions varied in severity. Mr. Rubin’s case stood out for how much Google paid him and its silence on the circumstances of his departure. After Mr. Rubin left, the company invested millions of dollars in his next venture.

Sam Singer, a spokesman for Mr. Rubin, disputed that the technologist had been told of any misconduct at Google and said he left the company of his own accord. Mr. Singer said that Mr. Rubin did not engage in misconduct and that “any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual and did not involve any person who reported directly to him.”

While Mr. Rubin’s exit from Google after an inappropriate relationship was previously reported, the nature of the accusation and the financial terms have not been disclosed.

In settling on terms favorable to two of the men, Google protected its own interests. The company avoided messy and costly legal fights, and kept them from working for rivals as part of the separation agreements.

When asked about Mr. Rubin and the other cases, Eileen Naughton, Google’s vice president for people operations, said in a statement that the company takes harassment seriously and reviews every complaint.

“We investigate and take action, including termination,” she said. “In recent years, we’ve taken a particularly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority. We’re working hard to keep improving how we handle this type of behavior.”

Some within Google said that was not enough.

“When Google covers up harassment and passes the trash, it contributes to an environment where people don’t feel safe reporting misconduct,” said Liz Fong-Jones, a Google engineer for more than a decade and an activist on workplace issues. “They suspect that nothing will happen or, worse, that the men will be paid and the women will be pushed aside.”

Google, founded in 1998 by Mr. Page and Sergey Brin when they were Stanford University graduate students, fostered a permissive workplace culture from the start.

In Silicon Valley, it is widely known that Mr. Page had dated Marissa Mayer, one of the company’s first engineers who later became chief executive of Yahoo. (Both were single.) Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, once retained a mistress to work as a company consultant, according to four people with knowledge of the relationship. And Mr. Brin, who along with Mr. Page owns the majority of voting shares in Google’s parent, Alphabet, had a consensual extramarital affair with an employee in 2014, said three employees with knowledge of the relationship.

David C. Drummond, who joined as general counsel in 2002, had an extramarital relationship with Jennifer Blakely, a senior contract manager in the legal department who reported to one of his deputies, she and other Google employees said. They began dating in 2004, discussed having children and had a son in 2007, after which Mr. Drummond disclosed their relationship to the company, she said.

Google then took action. Ms. Blakely said Stacy Sullivan, then the head of human resources and now chief culture officer, told her that Google discouraged managers from having relationships with subordinates.

“One of us would have to leave the legal department,” Ms. Blakely said. “It was clear it would not be David.”

Since the affair, Mr. Drummond’s career has flourished. He is now Alphabet’s chief legal officer and chairman of CapitalG, Google’s venture capital fund. He has reaped about $190 million from stock options and awards since 2011 and could make more than $200 million on other options and equity awards, according to company filings.

Ms. Blakely was transferred to sales in 2007 and left Google a year later. The company asked her to sign paperwork saying she had departed voluntarily. She said she “signed waivers, releases and whatever else they wanted.”

In late 2008, she said, Mr. Drummond left her. They later fought a custody battle for their son, she said, which she won.

How Mr. Drummond was treated “amplifies the message that for a select few, there are no consequences,” said Ms. Blakely, 54. “Google felt like I was the liability.”

Google’s sexual harassment policy states that violators may be terminated — but it was flexible in how it enforced the rules.

In 2013, Richard DeVaul, a director at Google X, the company’s research and development arm, interviewed Star Simpson, a hardware engineer. During the job interview, she said he told her that he and his wife were “polyamorous,” a word often used to describe an open marriage. She said he invited her to Burning Man, an annual festival in the Nevada desert, the following week.

Ms. Simpson went with her mother and said she thought it was an opportunity to talk to Mr. DeVaul about the job. She said she brought conservative clothes suitable for a professional meeting.

At Mr. DeVaul’s encampment, Ms. Simpson said, he asked her to remove her shirt and offered a back rub. She said she refused. When he insisted, she said she relented to a neck rub.

“I didn’t have enough spine or backbone to shut that down as a 24-year-old,” said Ms. Simpson, now 30.

A few weeks later, Google told her she did not get the job, without explaining why. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2018 at 10:30 am

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