It seems like Google is finally going to pay their dues for spying on their employees!
According to a recently filed complaint by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Alphabet-owned tech giant violated U.S. labour laws by spying on their workers who were involved in the organization of employee protests and then subsequently firing them.
NLRB’s complaint named two employees – Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, both of whom had to go through this ordeal in late 2019 because of employee activism.
Berland was organizing protests against Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants, a firm which is well known for their anti-union efforts and was let go by Google for reviewing other employees’ calendars.
Spiers was fired after she was involved in the creation of a pop-up for Google employees who were visiting the IRI Consultants website. The notification she created read: “Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities,” The company said that Kathryn Spiers violated their security policies which later went on to hurt her reputation in the entire tech community.
Now, while several other employees were fired in the wake of the protests as well, NLRB found only Berland and Spiers’ termination to be violating the U.S. labour laws.
To this, Bernard, in a statement, said that Google’s hiring of IRI indicates that the senior management will no longer tolerate worker organizing. Thus the NLRB is now making sure they send their message, which clearly states that worker organizing is protected by law.
Spiers took note of this new development as well and said while the NLRB might be able to order Google to reinstate her, but they cannot reverse the harm that was done to her credibility after she got illegally fired in the first place for simply trying to help her colleagues.
So, what consequences lay ahead of Google if they choose not to settle this complaint?
According to the New York Times, if the Alphabet-owned giant ignores this complaint, it will go to an administrative judge in the coming months after which if Google loses the case, they might be forced to pay back the wages and rehire both Berland and Spiers.
Google, much like the social media behemoth Facebook, has been roiled in scandal in recent years. In 2018, it surfaced how the company paid their former executive Andy Rubin $90 million in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation. That event set off a massive wave of protests at Google’s offices all across the world wherein more than 20,000 employees and contractors collectively participated walked out.
Later on, during the same year, Google’s workers also protested the company’s decision to work on the Project Maven with the Department of Defense on Project Maven in order to help the U.S. improve its drone strike capabilities and now this.
When reached out to a Google regarding the recent complaint by NLRB, a company spokesperson was observed to be doubling down on reaffirming the tech giant’s position.
He mentioned that at Google, they are proud of their work culture and are committed to defending it against attempts by a few individuals who try to undermine it deliberately. Thus, Google will continue to provide information to NLRB and the administrative judge about their decision to terminate the employees who abused their privileged access to internal tools.
All in all, while Google’s stance seems forged in concrete, it is difficult to say whether they will be taste victory in court, especially when there are multiple other probes ongoing. We will keep you updated all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.