Google is being accused by the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] of violating labor law when it illegally spied on its workers before firing them. The workers, according to The Verge, were organizing employee protests before two of them were fired by the company.
The allegation formed a part of a complaint filed by the NLRB on behalf of the affected employees. Names of two former employees who were fired in 2019 were mentioned in the complaint. Both employees were involved in connection with employee activism. Laurence Berland, one two employees fired in 2019, was organizing against the company’s decision to work with IRI Consultants. Berland was relieved of his job by Google for reviewing other employees’ calendars. The NLRB, however, has found Google’s policy against employees looking at certain coworkers’ calendar as unlawful.
“Google’s hiring of IRI is an unambiguous declaration that management will no longer tolerate worker organizing,” Berland said in a statement per The Verge. “Management and their union busting cronies wanted to send that message, and the NLRB is now sending their own message: worker organizing is protected by law.”
The second employee, Kathryn Spiers was fired after creating a pop-up for Google employees visiting the IRI Consultant website. Google said Spiers was relieved of her job when she violated the company’s security policies; a statement that damaged her reputation in the tech industry. This [the firing], the NLRB considers to be unlawful.
“This week the NLRB issued a complaint on my behalf. They found that I was illegally terminated for trying to help my colleagues,” Spiers said per The Verge. “Colleagues and strangers believe I abused my role because of lies told by Google management while they were retaliating against me. The NLRB can order Google to reinstate me, but it cannot reverse the harm done to my credibility.”
Google is not new to issues like this one, in 2018, more than 3,100 employees signed a petition urging Sundar Pichai to pull out of the company’s plan to work with the Department of Defense on “Project Maven,” an AI initiative aimed at helping the US improve its drone strike capabilities.
Responding, Google in an email per The Verge, said:
“Google has always worked to support a culture of internal discussion, and we place immense trust in our employees. Of course employees have protected labor rights that we strongly support, but we have always taken information security very seriously. We’re confident in our decision and legal position. Actions undertaken by the employees at issue were a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.”