Google engaged in unlawful conduct and unfair labor practices that included firing four employees last week, the Communications Workers of America said in a filing Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Silicon Valley tech giant fired software engineers Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke and site reliability engineer Laurence Berland last week, saying they violated the company’s data-security policies.
But the former Googlers say they were fired for workplace organizing and for speaking up about various issues, ranging from protesting against YouTube’s handling of LGBTQ issues to urging Google not to pursue a contract with Customs and Border Protection because of the government’s immigration policies.
The CWA said Google instituted new data policies and codes of conduct in response to its employees organizing and protesting the company’s “handling of issues,” according to the filing, which was seen by this news organization.
“Google engaged in all of this unlawful conduct in order to discourage and chill employees from engaging in protected concerted and union activities in violation of the National Labor Relations Act,” the CWA said.
The union has been working with Google employees and other tech workers for the past several months, said Beth Allen, communications director for the CWA.
“All across the industry workers have shown amazing courage by joining together on their own to voice their concerns and have organized workplace and community campaigns, workplace walkouts, and other activities,” Allen said Friday. “We are happy to support these brave workers in their efforts however we can.”
When reached for comment Friday, a Google spokesman repeated the company’s statement from last week, which said in part that “No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company’s activities.”
The workers were fired a couple of days after a Google worker protest in San Francisco in late November, where a couple of hundred Google employees and supporters talked about trying to save the company’s famed open culture. Since last year’s walkout, in which thousands of Google employees around the world protested the company’s handling of sexual-misconduct charges against its executives, the company has been dealing with an increasingly frustrated workforce and reportedly hired an anti-union consultant.
The NLRB filing referred to Google’s code of conduct, pointing out that it ends with the statement: “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!” The company’s actions “are the antithesis of the freedoms and transparency it publicly touts,” the union said.
The charge will be investigated by the NLRB’s regional office in San Francisco, whose director will decide whether the case has merit. If so, a complaint will be filed and there would be a hearing before an administrative law judge, whose decision could be appealed to the NLRB in Washington, said William Gould, emeritus professor of law at Stanford Law School and a former chief of the National Labor Relations Board.