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Sexual harassment and assault

Google gave Android creator Andy Rubin US$90 million, but ‘hid sexual misconduct claim’ that triggered exit

  • Google says it has fired 48 people for harassment in two years, after The New York Times reported Andy Rubin was accused of forcing employee to give oral sex
  • The inventor of the mobile software was involved in ‘ownership relationships’, a lawsuit said, in which he told one woman ‘I can loan you to other people’
PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 5:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 9:20am

Google gave a US$90million severance package to Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile software, but concealed details of a sexual misconduct allegation that triggered his departure, The New York Times has reported.

In a response to the article, Google said it had fired 48 employees in the past two years, including 13 senior executives, as a result of sexual harassment allegations, citing “an increasingly hard line” on inappropriate conduct.

According to unnamed sources who spoke to The Times, Google investigated and found credible claims from a female employee, who said Rubin forced her to perform oral sex in a hotel room in 2013.

Soon after, Larry Page, Google’s former CEO, asked for Rubin’s resignation. However, the company continued to pay him millions of dollars in instalments of US$2 million per month for four years.

Page praised Rubin when he left the company, saying in a 2014 public statement: “I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next. With Android, he created something truly remarkable – with a billion-plus happy users.”

The US tech giant issued a statement from chief executive Sundar Pichai. “In recent years, we’ve made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority,” Pichai said.

We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace
Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

He added that the report on Rubin and others “was difficult to read”, but he did not directly address the claims in the article.

“We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace,” he said. “We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.”

Last November, the tech news site the Information reported that Rubin had an “inappropriate relationship with a subordinate,” which violated company rules. At the time, a spokesperson for Rubin said the relationship was consensual and not a misconduct violation because the female employee did not report to him, emphasising that his decision to leave the company was unrelated.

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According to the New York Times report, it was not the first time Rubin had got into trouble. In another instance, current and former Google sources told the Times, Google docked his bonus after security found bondage videos on his work computer.

Rie Rubin, his former wife, who divorced him this year, said in a civil suit that he engaged in “ownership relationships” with several other women while they were married.

In an email he sent to a woman in 2015, that was included in the suit, Rubin wrote: “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”

Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people
Andy Rubin, in a 2015 email to a woman

Rubin, who joined Google in 2005 after the company acquired Android, was an integral part of growing its success. Often referred to as “the father of Android,” the engineer and entrepreneur created the software now used in 80 per cent of the world’s smartphones, which helped produce billions in profit. His net worth, according to The Times, is now roughly US$350million.

The Times also detailed Google’s rules on workplace relationships, and other ways in which it has struggled to enforce them fairly. Several head executives had relationships and extramarital affairs with subordinate employees, including David Drummond, Alphabet’s chief legal officer.

Drummond and Jennifer Blakely, a senior contract manager, dated for several years before disclosing their relationship to the human resources department, after having a child together. Blakely was then transferred to another department, before leaving a year later, having been asked to sign paperwork saying she has departed voluntarily. Drummond’s career, meanwhile, accelerated.

I groped a woman by mistake, but no one said anything

“For a select few, there are no consequences,” Blakely told The New York Times. “Google felt like I was the liability.”

The Times report revealed that Google had protected three executives in sexual misconduct claims over the last decade, paying them millions while keeping silent about the allegations. One of the three remained employed by the company.