Google Settles Lawsuit With Fired Engineers

Alphabet has reportedly reached a lawsuit settlement with a number of engineers who alleged the firm had retaliated against them over their attempt to help the workforce organise.

Four Google engineers, Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke were part of the ‘Thanksgiving four’ (the other was Laurence Berland) who were fired in November 2019 for allegedly breaching Google’s strict data security policies.

Days after they were fired, the largest union in America, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), filed a federal labour charge, alleging Google unlawfully fired the four employees in order to deter workers from engaging in union activities.

Google lawsuit

That complaint against Google automatically triggered a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation.

In November 2021 Google was sued by the former employees, alleging the firm had breached their employment contracts by not honouring its famous motto “don’t be evil.”

Google was founded back in 1998, but ever since the early 2000s it used the “don’t be evil” moto, and indeed made it part of Google’s corporate code of conduct.

However Google dropped that “don’t be evil” wording in May 2018 from its corporate mission statement.

At a ‘town hall’ meeting in 2019, staff alleged that Google regularly retaliates against employees who speak out.

At the time of their firing, the activists claimed Google’s move was in retaliation for a demonstration at Google’s San Francisco office, which was attended by more than 200 Google employees.

Paul Duke, tweeted at the time that he had been fired for “organising my coworkers and advocating for better working conditions for everyone who works at Google.”

Duke and sacked co-workers Laurence Berland and Sophie Waldman had also publicly signed a petition in August 2019 urging Google to reject business from three US immigration agencies that the petition said had mistreated migrants.

The fourth fired worker, Rebecca Rivers, had protested Google policies that appeared to undermine its support for people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.

Berland reportedly reached a settlement with Google last year.

Google Settlement

News of the settlement was first reported by Vice News on Monday, was confirmed by labor attorney Laurie Burgess, who represented the workers, as well as in a court filing Friday.

Meanwhile another Google staffer, Kathryn Spiers, who was fired in December 2019 for allegedly creating internal pop-ups, saying, “Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities.”

Her complaint was also taken up by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and is reportedly included in the settlement.

Google for its part has previously denied retaliating against the workers, claiming that it terminated or disciplined employees over violating company policies.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“We settled the NLRB charges and associated litigation, and are pleased for all sides to avoid years of legal proceedings,” Google spokesperson Jennifer Rodstrom was quoted by CNN as saying in a statement.

“We’ve always supported our employees’ right to speak about working conditions, and we stand by our policies that protect the security of our systems and safeguard user, customer and employee data,” Rodstrom reportedly said.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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