According to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday, Google spied on employees that were organizing protests against the company over work conditions, and then fired them after finding technicalities that justified the decision.
The complaint alleges that two former Google employees, Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, were fired from the company in late 2019 due to their worker-based activism.
Last year when Berland was fired, she was in the process of organizing a protest to push back against Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants, a firm that is known for its hostile approach to workers and unions. Berland was technically fired for unrelated reasons, as she was accused of reviewing the calendars of other employees, which is a violation of company policy, but the NLRB found that Google’s policy on calendars is unlawful.
The company’s policy prevents employees from using work-related calendars or email for non-business purposes. Berland was using the calendar to inform other employees about upcoming demonstrations against the company’s decisions, which is protected by labor laws.
In a statement about getting fired from the company, Berland said, “Google’s hiring of IRI is an unambiguous declaration that management will no longer tolerate worker organizing. 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 other Google employee that was fired last year, Kathryn Spiers, was also involved in efforts against IRI Consultants. Spiers was fired after she created a pop-up that Google employees saw when they visited the IRI Consultants website, informing them of their right to organize.
In a statement after the complaint was filed this week, Spiers said, “This week the NLRB issued a complaint on my behalf. They found that I was illegally terminated for trying to help my colleagues. 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.”
According to the New York Times, unless Google decides to settle out of court, the complaint will go before an administrative judge sometime in the next few months.
The most shocking revelation to come from the complaint is that the company “illegally surveilled employees” that were involved in protests and union organizing.
Google certainly has the capabilities to spy on anyone they want, and they would have a special interest in seeing what their employees are up to, especially those that are deemed to be some type of “problem” by management. The complaint also alleges that the company’s management “interrogated” employees that they believed to be organizing.
The NLRB found that numerous other employees were fired because of their activism, but they were only able to find blatant violations of labor law in these two cases.
This story did not get much coverage in the US, but was covered widely in international news.
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