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Google Illegally Spied On, Fired Employees: US Labor Board

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  • The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday filed a complaint accusing Google of violating several labor laws during a crackdown of worker activism last year.
  • The complaint said Google unlawfully terminated two employees involved in worker activism.
  • It also accused Google of violating US labor laws by monitoring and interrogating workers involved in the protests.
  • Five employees were fired late last year for their involvement in protests at the company. Two of those employees are mentioned in the complaint.
  • Are you a current or former Google insider? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-628-228-1836) or encrypted email ([email protected]). Reach out using a nonwork device.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) on Wednesday issued a complaint accusing Google of violating several labor laws during a crackdown on worker activism last year.

According to the NLRB’s complaint, Google “virtually surveilled” and then interrogated workers engaging in employee activism, and later fired them.

It also enforced rules stopping workers from accessing each others’ calendars without a “business purpose,” and introduced a 100-person limit on how many employees could sign on for calendar events, the complaint claimed.

Google has to respond to the complaint by December 16, and a hearing has been set for April 12.

Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, two former Google workers fired by the company late last year for involvement in employee activism, are both named in the complaint. 

Google accused Berland and Spiers of violating its data-security policies when it terminated their employment late last year.

Berland was fired for accessing other employees’ calendars while organizing efforts to protest Google’s work with IRI, an anti-union firm — something the NLRB says Google was wrong to terminate Berland for.

Spiers was a security engineer at Google who created a pop-up notification that appeared when employees visited the IRI website. The notification told employees they had a right to “participate in protected concerted activities.”

The NLRB has found that Spiers’ termination was also unlawful.

Read more: One of Google’s leading AI researchers says she’s been fired in retaliation for an email to other employees

“This complaint makes clear that workers have the right to speak to issues of ethical business and the composition of management,” Berland said in a statement.

“This is a significant finding at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society.

“Workers have the right to speak out about and organize, as the NLRB is affirming, but we also know that we should not, and cannot, cleave off ethical concerns about the role management wants to play in that society.”

The NLRB did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. 

“Google has always worked to support a culture of internal discussion, and we place immense trust in our employees,” a Google spokesperson said.

“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.” 

The NLRB did not issue complaints about Google employees who were also terminated around the time. They included Rebecca Rivers, a former employee who helped create a petition demanding Google end its work with US Customers and Border Protection.

Laurie Burgess, counsel for the former Google workers, said they intended to “vigorously appeal” the dismissal of charges related to the other employees who were involved in protests that were determined to be not covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

Read more at www.businessinsider.com

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