Google Violated Labour Laws by Spying on Staff, Suit Alleges

The US labour regulator has accused the tech giant of unlawfully  monitoring its employees prior to firing them.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint on Wednesday accusing Google of unlawfully monitoring and questioning employees who were then improperly terminated for protesting against company policies and attempting to organise a union.

The suit focuses on the firing of Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, who the complaint alleges were terminated for accessing documents related to how the company polices internal forums. The regulator also said that it had found unlawful Google policies related to accessing meeting rooms and documents as well as tactics for investigating employees. The complaint alleged that all of these efforts were intended to deter workers from organising.

Google said that it had acted legally, and that the workers in question had breached information security rules.

“Google has always worked to support a culture of internal discussion, and we place immense trust in our employees,” the company said. “Actions undertaken by the employees at issue were a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.”

Berland and Spiers were two among five Google employees fired after leading efforts to organise workers at the company, according to the NLRB. The terminations capped two years of conflict between Google and its employees in the US regarding how much input lower-level employees have over projects that the company takes on, its policies for handling sexual misconduct and other workplace disputes.

Berland described the regulator’s complaint as a significant step “at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society.”

Google has until 16 December to formally respond to the NLRB’s suit. If successful, the case could lead to the reinstatement of several fired Google employees and changes to the company’s policies.

The case is scheduled to be tried before an administrative law judge on 12 April.

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