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Google employees reportedly say they faced retaliation for organizing walkout

The organizers were told their roles would change months after the protest, according to Wired.

Google Walkout Me Too Protest

Google employees protested the company's handling of sexual harassment claims in November.

James Martin/CNET

Two Google employees who helped organize a worldwide walkout at the company in November say they've faced retaliation for their actions, according to a Monday report

Meredith Whittaker, the head of Google's Open Research, and Claire Stapleton, a marketing manager at YouTube, say they were told their roles would change several months after the walkout, according to Wired. More than 20,000 full-time workers and contractors walked off their jobs to protest the search giant's handling of sexual harassment claims. 

After Google shut down its AI ethics council in early April, Whittaker was told her position would be "changed dramatically," she wrote in a message sent to several internal Google mailing lists, according to Wired. If she wanted to say at the company, Whittaker would have to give up her work on AI ethics, as well as her job at the AI Now Institute at New York University, a research center she cofounded, the magazine said.

Two months after the walkout, Stapleton was told she was being demoted from her role and would lose half of her reports, she reportedly wrote in the email. She brought the issue up with human resources and faced more retaliation, according to Wired. 

"My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I'm not sick," she reportedly wrote. 

Stapleton hired a lawyer. After a company investigation, she was reportedly able to keep her position. "While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day," she wrote, according to Wired. 

Whittaker and Stapleton didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Wired reported that the pair would hold a "town hall" meeting on Friday, at which other employees will be able to discuss any retaliation they may have faced. 

A Google spokeswoman denied any retaliation, saying the moves were part of routine staffing changes. 

"Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs," she said in an email. "There has been no retaliation here."