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Google to overhaul sexual harassment policies following employee walkout

"We need to make some changes," CEO Sundar Pichai says in a note sent to Google employees.

Google Walkout Me Too Protest
Google employees walked out in protest.
James Martin/CNET

Google on Thursday said it's making changes to the way it handles sexual harassment cases, including greater transparency, new reporting channels, and making arbitration optional for individual harassment and assault claims.

In a letter sent to Google employees, CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for how the company has handled sexual harassment cases in the past and announced a "comprehensive action plan" to make progress.

"We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that," he wrote. "It's clear we need to make some changes."

It's an issue that has hit home at the company. Google employees walked out of the company's offices around the world on Nov. 1 in protest of the search giant's handling of sexual harassment claims -- specifically at the executive level.

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The walkout came a week after The New York Times published a bombshell investigative report on sexual harassment at Google. According to the Times' report, Android creator Andy Rubin was accused by a worker of having coerced her to perform oral sex on him in a hotel room in 2013. Google reportedly found the allegation to be credible. The company then asked for his resignation, gave him an exit package of $90 million, and didn't mention the misconduct in his departure announcement, according to the Times.

In response to the article, Rubin tweeted that the "story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation." He added, "These false allegations are part of a smear campaign."

Google said it had no further comment beyond Pichai's letter.

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