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Google HR chief Eileen Naughton to step down amid employee tensions

Naughton will remain at Google, though the company doesn't know what her new role will be.

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Eileen Naughton is stepping down as Google human resources chief.

Google

Google's head of human resources, Eileen Naughton, said on Monday she will depart that role, as tensions continue to rise between company management and workers who have protested the search giant's workplace culture. 

Naughton, a 14-year veteran of the company, will remain at Google in another role, though the search giant said it doesn't know what her new role will be. (Officially, Naughton's title is vice president of People Operations, Google parlance for HR.) Fortune earlier reported the news

The shift comes as Google faces the greatest challenges to its culture in its 21-year history. During her tenure as head of HR, activists within the search giant have protested several decisions by leadership, including the signing of an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon and Google's work in China. Most notably, 20,000 employees walked out of their offices in November 2018 to protest leadership's handling of sexual assault allegations.

Google workers have also displayed unrest over the firings of four Google employees who were dismissed in November. The former employees accused Google of sacking them for "engaging in protected labor organizing" and filed charges of unfair labor practices against the company. Google said the employees were fired for violating data security policies, not organizing.

Naughton, though, said her decision to step down isn't related to any of those cultural clashes. 

"My husband and I have decided -- after six years on the road, first in London and now San Francisco -- to return home to New York to be closer to our family," Naughton said in a statement. "I'm at the very beginning of the process and wanted to let everyone know upfront, as I'll be working with [Google CEO] Sundar [Pichai] and [Google CFO] Ruth [Porat] to find a great leader for the People Operations team."

Naughton's decision to step down comes amid a handful of high-profile departures at Google and its parent company Alphabet. In December, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said they were leaving their leadership roles at Alphabet, leaving Pichai to run the entire conglomerate in addition to his duties helming Google. Alphabet legal chief David Drummond in January retired from the company as he faced controversy over personal relationships at the company.

Pichai on Thursday highlighted Naughton's contributions to growing Google's work force. The company said headcount has doubled since 2016.

"We're grateful to Eileen for all she's done and look forward to her next chapter at Google," Pichai said in a statement. "Over the past 13 years, Eileen has made major contributions to the company in numerous areas, from media partnerships, to leading our sales and operations in the UK and Ireland, to leading our People Operations team through a period of significant growth -- during which over 70,000 people started their careers at Google."