The employees, Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, were among several that were terminated after organizing in late 2019 but were the only two the federal agency identified as being unlawfully fired, according to a copy of the consolidated complaint filed by the NLRB office in San Francisco.
The complaint alleges that Google wrongfully applied workplace policies, such as restricting how calendars could be used, to target employees engaged in organizing activities. It also alleges that employees were unlawfully surveilled while organizing; that workers were interrogated about organizing activities; and that the company placed employees like Berland and Spiers on administrative leave and terminated them in order to discourage other workers from organizing.
“We strongly support the rights our employees have in the workplace, and open discussion and respectful debate have always been part of Google’s culture,” Google said in a statement. “We’re proud of that culture and are committed to defending it against attempts by individuals to deliberately undermine it — including by violating security policies and internal systems”
The statement adds: “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 NLRB complaint highlights the escalating tensions inside Google, which was long considered one of the best companies to work for.
Google must formally respond to the complaint by December 16, with a hearing scheduled for April 12, 2021.
The workers, including Berland, alleged they were terminated as retaliation for workplace organizing; Google said it fired the workers for allegedly violating its data-security policies.
“This is a significant finding at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society,” said Berland in a statement in the press release. “Workers have the right to speak out about and organize, as the NLRB is affirming, but we also know that we should not, and cannot, cleave off ethical concerns about the role management wants to play in that society.”
“Colleagues and strangers believe I abused my role because of lies told by Google management while they were retaliating against me. The NLRB can order Google to reinstate me, but it cannot reverse the harm done to my credibility,” said Spiers in a statement from the press release.
The counsel for the terminated Google employees in the ongoing NLRB case, Laurie Burgess, said the NLRB did not issue complaints for wrongful termination of other employees, including those organizing against the company’s business with US Customs and Border Protection.
“We intend to vigorously appeal the dismissed charges to the NLRB to ensure that the right to engage in this type of protected activity is not encroached upon,” said Burgess in a statement.