Two of the women who organized the 20,000-person Google walkout in protest of the company’s handling of sexual-harassment allegations in November say that they are facing retaliation, according to a letter published by Wired. Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker each detailed that they were demoted from their roles within the company following the walkout.
Whittaker and Stapleton are two of the seven women who helped organize the walkout, and their letter was posted to internal mailing lists at Google. Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research, said that she was informed that her role would be “changed dramatically.” Whittaker wrote that she felt she was being forced to choose between leaving the company and abandoning her work on AI ethics and a research center she co-founded at New York University called the AI Now Institute.
Stapleton, who works for YouTube, wrote that two months after the walkout, she was demoted and projects that she’d previously received approval for were taken away. “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 wrote.
Their joint letter continued, saying that the behavior they described is not unheard of at Google, adding that the company “has a culture of retaliation, which too often works to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities.”
In a statement to Wired, a Google representative denied that there was any retaliation at the company.
“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations. Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here.”
Stapleton wrote that after she retained a lawyer, her demotion was walked back. Whittaker and Stapleton’s letter concluded with an announcement of a town hall that will be hosted on April 26 about retaliation and called for other Google employees to share their own stories from the workplace.