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Fired Google employees accuse company of union-busting

Group will take grievances to National Labor Relations Board "as a first step"

Four former Google employees who were fired last week are accusing the company of union-busting, announcing their intent to take their grievance to the National Labor Relations Board.

In a Medium post, former Google engineers Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers, and Sophie Waldman attest that while Google's code of conduct encourages employees to speak up if they see something they don't think is right, their vocal disapproval of numerous company actions and collective action to affect change resulted in them being fired over Thanksgiving week.

In the post, the group lists a number of issues they feel Google ought to be held accountable for, including their support of a 2018 walkout against protecting executives who sexually assault employees, concerns about retaliation against employees who brought issues to HR, various YouTube policy problems causing harm to the LGBTQ community, and many more.

The former employees claim that in response to these actions and other similar ones, Google hired a known union-busting firm and then fired the four employees a few weeks later (Google denies the firm had anything to do with any of its internal policies). They say the reasoning given was that they had looked at and distributed off-limits documents, but that Google was using this as an excuse to remove them for organizing:

"Google redrafted its policies, making it a fireable offense to even look at certain documents...The policy was unclear, even explicitly stating the documents didn't have to be labeled to be off-limits. No meaningful guidance has ever been offered on how employees could consistently comply with this policy. The policy change amounted to: access at your own risk and let executives figure out whether you should be punished after the fact.

"We knew then, and it's clear now: this policy change was setting up an excuse to retaliate against organizers, allowing the company a pretext for picking and choosing who to target."

The group plans to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board "as a first step," and has encouraged their former employees to organize and hold the company accountable.

In response to an inquiry on the firings, a Google spokeswoman gave the following statement to GamesIndustry.biz.

"We dismissed four individuals who were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees' materials and work. No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company's activities."

Google added that it did send a reminder of existing data classification and security policies to all employees earlier in the year. Additionally, the company offered an example of a case of violation of its data policies that prompted the reminders (though it did not confirm if it was related to the firings) that involved an individual setting up calendar notifications to be informed of multiple employees' whereabouts, including personal apppointments, making those employees feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

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