Lawsuit By Former Google Staffers Cites ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Moto

Alphabet has been sued by a group of former employees, alleging the firm breached their employment contracts by not honouring its famous motto “don’t be evil.”

The lawsuit was filed in California state court in Santa Clara county, Reuters reported, by former Google employees Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke.

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.

Thanksgiving four

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.

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

At the time of their firing, 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.

Alphabet lawsuit

Laurence Berland is the only one of the ‘Thanksgiving four’ who has not participated in the lawsuit filed this week against Google.

In the lawsuit, Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke alleged that they were fired two years ago for fulfilling their contractual obligation to speak up if they saw Google violating its “don’t be evil” pledge.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

The workers considered the potential immigration work “evil” under Google’s policies, which call for “acting honourably and treating each other with respect” and engaging in “the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct,” the lawsuit reportedly stated.

The company’s code of conduct says workers who think the company may be falling short of its commitment should not stay silent, the lawsuit said.

The workers are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Don’t be evil

Google has been rocked before, when staff feel the firm is not following its “don’t be evil” ethos.

In 2018 for example, almost 4,000 Google employees signed an internal petition asking Google to end its participation in Project Maven – a drone contract with the Pentagon.

Some staff even resigned over the matter.

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.

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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