Workplace Ethics: Sexual Harassment at Google Inc.


Ethics are essential to a firm’s success because they govern internal and external corporate behaviors. Companies’ decision to develop a code of ethics can be either voluntary or a result of a legal mandate. The developed codes manage organizational relationships and directly affect employees’ morale, determining the quality of services offered to clients. For instance, ethics that promote inclusivity make workers feel valued and enhance their input to the corporation. As evident in the case of Google Inc., businesses that lack clear codes of conduct can experience such unethical practices as sexual harassment, which adversely affect the overall determination, relationships, and productivity levels among the staff.

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Overview of Sexual Harassment Prevalence

In today’s organizations, sexual harassment is a prominent unethical act that affects all genders. Although the practice victimizes both men and women, the issue is highly prevalent among females. Studies conducted in the United States show that up to 80% of women in the country undergo sexual harassment in their places of work (Keplinger et al., 2019). The nature of assault reported in these cases falls under the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence against Women (OVW) definition of the act – “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature which affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with their work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” (Shaw, Hegewisch, & Hess, 2018, para. 3). While the federal agency provides a national definition of immoral behavior, each organization should determine the extent to which a deed qualifies as sexual harassment.

Impact of Sexual Harassment on Overall Morale, Relationships Within the Organization, and Productivity Level

Job-related unethical practices adversely affect employee morale, organization relationships, and overall company productivity. Siti et al. (2015) assert that workers who experience sexual harassment exhibit high rates of absenteeism and job dissatisfaction. Turnover intentions may be prevalent among staff who face sexual advances from their superiors. The authors also add that unwelcome sexual conduct is one of the leading causes of poor working relationships. Imposing sexual pressure on the staff may result in conflicts, especially when co-workers fail to comply with such demands. Besides, employees may be hesitant to work under managers who portray high levels of sexual advances. Increased employment turnover, absenteeism, and poor working relationships lower a company’s aggregate input and output. 

Case Scenario: Google Inc.

Although most large organizations have rigorous policies to prevent cases of sexual harassment, Google Inc. has been a victim of unethical behavior in the past. In 2013, Mr. Rubin, the company’s creator of Android mobile software, was accused of assaulting a female employee (Wakabayashi & Benner, 2018). Although the allegations were confirmed, Google Inc. failed to take proper action against the offender. Instead, reports showed that the corporation paid Mr. Rubin $90 million upon his dismissal (Wakabayashi & Benner, 2018). However, continuous cases of sexual misconduct in the firm have led to the adoption of stringent regulations in recent years. For instance, in 2015, the corporation’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced that the new code required all Google’s executives to disclose any non-work related relationships they may have with employees (“Google Sexual Harassment,” 2018). Such measures, implemented by most large businesses, aim to provide a safe working environment for all staff.

Rating of Ethical Practices in Google Inc.

I would rate Google’s ethical practices as fair. Despite previous shortcomings by the management portrayed in its reluctance to take proper actions against sexual offenders, the firm has shown substantial efforts to fight against the act. For instance, over two years, the administration fired 48 employees alleged to have indulged in sexual harassment (“Google Sexual Harassment,” 2018). In addition, the firm’s CEO introduced more stringent policies to prevent unethical practices in the future (“Google Sexual Harassment,” 2018). However, I think the current rules may not be explicit enough to deter such behaviors in the organization.

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As sexual harassment continues to plague today’s society, global companies like Google Inc. should implement extra measures to avoid employee misconduct. The most significant effort would be to develop exhaustive policies on sexual harassment and conduct annual awareness campaigns. According to Buchanan et al. (2014), robust codes of conduct should clearly define the deed and outline all sexual assault indicators. The authors also emphasize that guidelines should be written rather than communicated verbally. Published principles can easily be distributed among employees as sources of reference in their daily activities and cases of sexual allegations. Corporate awareness campaigns will ensure that the employees comply with the enacted policies and do not withhold sexual harassment issues.

Sexual harassment in the work environment negatively affects the organization’s morale, relationships, and productivity levels. Women in many global companies, including Google Inc., have been the predominant victims of such assaults. Although the enterprise had not dealt with sexual harassment cases adequately in the past, the current CEO has enacted promising measures to avoid possible recurrences. The company should eradicate unethical practices by developing an explicit written policy on sexual misconduct and conducting annual awareness campaigns.



Buchanan, N., Settles, I., Hall, A., & O’Connor, R. (2014). A review of organizational strategies for reducing sexual harassment: Insights from the U.S. military. Journal of Social Issues, 70(4), 687-702.

Google sexual harassment: 48 employees fired, CEO says in memo. (2018). CBS News. Retrieved from

Keplinger, K., Johnson, S. K., Kirk, J. F., & Barnes, L. Y. (2019) Women at work: Changes in sexual harassment between September 2016 and September 2018. PLoS ONE 14(7): e0218313. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0218313

Shaw, E., Hegewisch, A., & Hess, C. (2018). Sexual harassment and assault at work: Understanding the costs. Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Briefing Paper. Retrieved from

Siti, A., Zainuddin, Z., Ahmad, S., Nur, S., & Suzila, S. (2015). The effects of sexual harassment in workplace: Experience of employees in hospitality industry in Terengganu, Malaysia. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(4), 689-695.

Wakabayashi, D., & Benner, K. (2018). How Google protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’. New York Times. Retrieved from

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