Hundreds of members of Google staff left the company and stopped working in protest at the search giant’s treatment of sexual misconduct.

Engineers and other workers – at Google offices all around the world – walked off the job today in opposition to what they say is the company’s overly lenient treatment of executives accused of abusive behaviour.

It came amid increasing anger from women in Silicon Valley over the way the male-dominated technology industry continues to tolerate unsavoury and problematic behaviour.

The Google protest, billed “Walkout For Real Change,” unfolded a week after a New York Times story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about creator of its Android software, Andy Rubin. The report said Rubin received a $90m (£69m) severance package in 2014 even though Google concluded the sexual misconduct allegations again him were credible. 

Rubin derided the NYT story article as inaccurate and denied the allegations in a tweet. 

The same story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct of other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the same Google-affiliated lab that created far-flung projects such as self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons. DeVaul had remained at the “X” lab after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him a few years ago, but he resigned Tuesday without severance, Google confirmed on Wednesday. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologised for the company’s “past actions” in an email sent to employees on Tuesday. “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Pichai wrote. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. and, yes, here at Google, too.” 

In an email last week, Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google’s executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure workers that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Rubin’s departure four years ago. 

Among other things, Pichai and Naughton disclosed that Google had fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for “sexual harassment” in recent years without giving any of them severance packages. 

But Thursday’s walkout could signal that a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc, remained unconvinced the company is doing enough to adhere to Alphabet’s own edict urging all employees to “do the right thing”. 

A Silicon Valley congresswoman tweeted her support of the Google walkout using the “Me Too” hashtag that has become a battle cry for women fighting sexual misconduct. “Why do they think it’s OK to reward perpetrators & further violate victims?” asked Jackie Speier, the Republican senator who represents an affluent district where many of Google’s employees live. 

Additional reporting by agencies

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