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Google accused of violating labor laws by monitoring workers

The company allegedly retaliated against workers who were trying to unionize by firing them

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Photo (c) Antwon McMullen - Getty Images
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed a complaint accusing Google of illegally spying on workers before firing them. 

The NLRB alleges that the company virtually spied on employees organizing company protests before terminating two of them. In doing so, the Board claims the tech giant was “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act.” 

Kathryn Spiers, one of the workers who was fired in 2019, says Google unlawfully fired her for “trying to help” her colleagues by organizing a movement pushing back against Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants -- a firm known for its anti-union efforts. 

“Google’s hiring of IRI is an unambiguous declaration that management will no longer tolerate worker organizing,” Laurence Berland, the other worker who was fired, said in a statement. “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.”

Accused of surveilling and then firing workers

The complaint accuses Google of virtually surveilling workers and then interrogating those participating in employee activism before terminating them. 

The NLRB says Google illegally stopped employees from sharing work-related grievances and information with each other using tools like calendars, email, meeting rooms, and a communication tool used at Google called MemeGen.

If Google doesn’t settle by December 16, the complaint will go before a San Francisco judge in April of next year. In a statement to The Verge, a company spokesperson said Google intends to to defend itself against the allegations. 

“We’ll continue to provide information to the NLRB and the administrative judge about our decision to terminate or discipline employees who abused their privileged access to internal systems, such as our security tools or colleagues’ calendars,” the spokesperson said. “Such actions are a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility, and we will be defending our position.”

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