Investors from Facebook, Amazon, and other tech companies urged to let workers talk about harassment and discrimination

After California passed legislation to protect the right of employees to discuss workplace harassment or discrimination, activists are calling on investors to force big tech companies to extend protections to their workers around the world.

The Transparency in Employment Agreements Coalition has filed shareholder resolutions in some of the country’s largest tech companies, including Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc. FB,
-2.30%,
Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. GOOG,
-1.15%

GOOGL,
-1.12%,
Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
-1.99%,
Twitter Inc. TWTR,
-2.65%,
IBM Corp. IBM,
-0.07%,
Etsy Inc. ETSY,
-0.06%
and Salesforce.com Inc. CRM,
-0.74%
– seeking to enforce the Silenced No More law on their global workforce.

Ifeoma Ozoma, who left Pinterest Inc. PINS,
-3.06%
in 2020 after accusing the company of discrimination based on gender and race and later became the driving force behind California law, is part of the effort, alongside investors and advocacy groups who regularly submit shareholder resolutions.

“The work was done through the Silenced No More Act, but we want to make sure workers outside of California are protected,” Ozoma told MarketWatch.

The Silenced No More Act, which comes into effect next year in California, gives employees the right to speak out about illegal acts in the workplace without breaking their nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs. Michael Connor, executive director of the Open MIC (Media and Information Companies Initiative), a nonprofit that works on socially responsible investing and is also part of the coalition, said the law is “just fine. case”.

See: “Silenced No More Act” becomes law in California, crippling NDAs

“These resolutions are based on a simple premise: Companies have an interest in knowing when sexual harassment, discrimination and illegal behavior occurs in the workplace, which is why employees should be encouraged to speak out on a such conduct, “he said.

In the fall, the coalition worked with Nia Impact Capital to file a similar proposal at Apple Inc. AAPL,
-0.81%,
triggering a chain of events that culminated in a whistleblower complaint against the tech giant. Business intern reported last month that a former Apple employee filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, claiming that despite the company’s claims that she did not use cover-up clauses in employment contracts , she was limited in what she could say when she left the company after experiencing harassment.

Ozoma said the coalition tabled these other resolutions because Meta, Alphabet, Amazon, Twitter, IBM and Salesforce failed to respond to the coalition’s efforts to engage. Other companies, including Pinterest, Twilio Inc. TWLO,
-1.65%
and Expensify Inc. EXFY,
-1.57%,
agreed to include language in their international employment contracts explicitly stating workers’ ability to discuss harassment, discrimination or other illegal behavior after being approached by the group.

Etsy responded to the group, but said it “respectfully” disagreed with the group’s ultimate goal. In an email to the coalition seen by MarketWatch, Etsy said its employment contracts already give workers the right to talk about potentially illegal conduct in the workplace. But the company said adopting the language the coalition requested does not “make sense” to Etsy because it wants to protect employees who could be accused by those who have left.

“If your priority is the people who stay, you don’t understand the point,” Ozoma said, adding that those who stay in the companies are, in some cases, “the aggressors”.

Etsy has not provided a comment to MarketWatch at the time of posting. IBM and Salesforce did not respond, while representatives for Twitter and Amazon declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Alphabet – whose handling of previous cases of sexual harassment sparked Google’s famous walkout in 2018 and led to changes, including waiving mandatory arbitration of harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaints – a said the company is still evaluating the coalition’s proposal.

A spokesperson for Meta said that “contracts for Meta employees do not include cover-up or language preventing them from speaking publicly about their concerns,” but prohibit them from speaking about confidential information.

The companies haven’t announced dates for their annual general meetings next year, but they are usually held in the spring and summer.

The Transparency in Employment Agreements Coalition is made up of Ozoma Earthseed, Whistle Stop Capital, Open MIC and Frontier Technology, and represents investors, civil society organizations and others. The coalition worked with Clean Yield Asset Management to file the resolution with IBM, and with Nia Impact Capital to file with Etsy.


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