One of the main leaders of last year’s Google Walkout, Claire Stapleton, has decided to leave the company after saying she faced retaliation for her organizing efforts.
“I made the choice after the heads of my department branded me with a kind of scarlet letter that makes it difficult to do my job or find another one,” Stapleton said. “If I stayed, I didn’t just worry that there’d be more public flogging, shunning, and stress, I expected it.”
The announcement of her departure was made public in a Medium post on Friday, which republished a copy of the note Stapleton says she sent internally this week to employees.
In the note, Stapleton said she had “simple, pure nostalgia” for her early days at Google, circa 2007.
“Google’s lore, its leadership, its promise — the whole thing lit me up, filled me with a sense of purpose, of inspiration, of privilege to be here,” Stapleton said.
But over time, the former YouTube marketing manager said, things changed. She especially noticed around 2017, leadership’s response over the “hard things” had taken on a different tone.
“Google’s always had controversies and internal debates, but the ‘hard things’ had intensified,” Stapleton said. “And the way leadership was addressing them suddenly felt different, cagier, less satisfying.”
Stapleton said in the note that she was inspired to call for the walkout by Google leadership’s “lack of accountability” — specifically, in regards to its response to reports that the company had paid out a $90 million exit package to Android creator Andy Rubin while he was under investigation for sexual misconduct.
In the wake of the Google Walkout, Stapleton alleged that Google had retaliated against her, and that she had been demoted and lost half of her reports. After hiring a lawyer and an internal investigation was conducted, her role was restored, but “the environment remains hostile,” she reportedly wrote in an internal email in April. Google denied any retaliation was taken against Stapleton or other organizers.
Fellow Google organizer Meredith Whittaker spoke out regarding Stapleton’s departure on Friday, saying that her departure wouldn’t “stop a movement.”
Read Stapleton’s full letter here.
A Google spokesperson issued the following statement on Stapleton’s departure:
“We thank Claire for her work at Google and wish her all the best. To reiterate, we don’t tolerate retaliation. Our employee relations team did a thorough investigation of her claims and found no evidence of retaliation. They found that Claire’s management team supported her contributions to our workplace, including awarding her their team Culture Award for her role in the Walkout.”
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