Google Fires Four Employees At Center Of Worker Organization Efforts

from ars technica

Tensions between Google parent company Alphabet and its workers are again on the rise, as four employees at the forefront of an organization movement within Google have been fired.

The firings came Monday in the wake of an employee rally at Google’s San Francisco office that took place last Friday. The rally was in support of employees Rebecca Rivers and Laurence Berland, both of whom had been placed on administrative leave in the wake of their previous protests against the company.

Bloomberg obtained a memo sent to all Google employees on Monday about the firings, which described the dismissal as due to “clear and repeated violations” of the company’s data security policies.

More here.

Posted in Business, Law and tagged , , .


  1. Reading this article leaves me shocked and merely just confused. One of the biggest most influential companies on the planet is acting towards their employees in a manor that is illegal and unethical. In the comment above me, Steven brings up excellent points regarding Google’s employees potential discussions of organization and regarding the knowledge of Google officials and Alphabet. It is extremely concerning if Google fired these employees due to talks of organization. The NLRB and ACLU in my opinion need to get involved with this situation because if these acts continue. If Google continues to fire people who question the company it will set a standard that large powerful companies can do whatever and treat their employees however they wish. Then to Stephens second point, Google and the parent company Alphabet know what they are doing. Some of the smartest people in the world work for this company and they know they are doing wrong. I think the only way Google can be stopped is if someone brave enough will step forward and lead a charge. Standing up to Google would be like David vs Goliath, it would take guts, sacrifice, and a whole lot of money to even make an effort to bring legal action towards them.

    Very similar to what we talked about in class, Google encourages their employees to share data amongst one another. A standard of what data can be shared or how much can be shared is not specified leaving a grey area. This gives Google the opportunity to fire someone who shared information or discussed something that the company does not like. I think loopholes like this should be discussed throughout our legal system. The loophole allows companies to basically do what they want and have no repercussions in doing so.

  2. Time and time again from the fall of great civilizations to in this case the denial of basic job rights, history often finds itself repeating itself, today with Google being the name in question in the headlines as the title of this article states, “Google Fires Four Employees At Center Of Worker Organization Efforts.”

    It is important when not only reading stories from news sources but when hearing any story, to not believe the first thing one is told. Instead it is important to take it into consideration all sides of the story (as everyone’s version of the story will always make themselves look good) and try and build a timeline of events for yourself so an accurate conclusion of what happened can be reached. Using this method of reasoning and after taking all three sides into account (Google’s side, claiming that they fired the employees because of violating company policies), four employees who got fired’s side (who are under the impression they were fired for trying to form a labor union), and even form an outside perspective (the fellow employees who mentioned that Google actually promoted data sharing and looking into other company projects. Additionally they mentioned that these new policies Google mentions are murky and unclear and even weren’t aware the addition was made), I have come to the conclusion that Google indeed did fire these four employees in a retaliating nature in response to their union efforts. My main reason for this conclusion is that two out of the three of the sides confirm that the firing of these four employees for the reason of their firing is a bit questionable because of the data sharing all employees do as whole, it is a bit random to fire them over this new and unknown policy. Even Google to a certain extent acknowledged this being that they went scrambling to come up with a reason for the firing of these employees. One thing for sure is big changes are to come in technology business law as a result of the suit that will follow.

    However it is imperative to always remember, although today it was Google, another day it will be somebody else and in a couple years from now who knows who it will be.

  3. I remember watching a movie called the Internship. In this film two older men earn internships at Google where they are competing against many college student interns during the summer for permanent jobs at the company. It was a very good movie filled with comedy, competition and triumph. Most importantly, the movie portrayed an awe-inspiring image of google for me. I was like wow, working at google must be the greatest career anyone can choose. You got the feeling that working there was like getting paid to have fun at what was portrayed as a sort of fun zone or theme park. They had a blast as interns competing in many different tasks and ended receiving permanent positions at google after outcompeting the rest of the interns. Once again, I was like wow those are two lucky dudes who got the job at what seemed to be the best place to work at in the United States.
    Well, here we are in 2019 and google has recently fired four employees who were at the center of worker organization efforts. The firings occurred in late November and have only added to the already growing tension between the company and its employees. Google claims that they fired the employees for clear and repeated violations of Google’s data security policies. They also claimed that the information the employees had obtained was outside the scope of their particular jobs. Many workers, however, stated that the policy in question is vague and that the firings were retaliatory. Google also redrafted their policy to make it a fire able offense to even look at certain documents. It was also stated that doing so “was” a big part of Google’s culture. The company encouraged their employees to look at other company files, documents, and projects because it was seen as a benefit. In their new policy it is not even stated what files are off limits which of course is going to cause uproar within the employees. I used to think that Google was the perfect place to work, but there seems to be some trouble in paradise.

  4. It appears the larger the company the bigger the problems they have. In this case our beloved multinational tech company, Google is having issues with treating their employees properly. I am for one shocked to hear about this behavior because Google tends to paint this image that they are THE company to work for. Many advertisements would promote an easy going, laid back environment that portrays a respectful work atmosphere. Google and Alphabet knew exactly what they were doing and that it was unfair but also illegal. In the article it stated that “looking at documents outside of one’s own job scope is par for the course at Google.” In order words they basically get to make up their own rules and choose who they want to fire? I agree that this policy is bogus, in fact it is too vague, and the firings were unethical. Typically, there are violations and procedures that go about firing someone. An employer typically starts building a case and notes down all the wronging’s an employee does in order to follow through with termination. They should have enforced these rules to said employees so they can avoid getting fired, but this wasn’t the case. Google knows that these employees do not stand a chance in court if they were to fight this. If an employer doesn’t want an employee around, they find any way they can to fire them, legally or not. These employees’ rights were stripped away from them and these firings were unethical. If these data sharing is a huge issue then Google would’ve emphasis it’s importance, it’s not specified at all to the employees. Google was completely wrong in this case and I hope these employees find some type of justice.

  5. It is obvious, in a logical sense, that Google is firing employees who protest the company and unionize. However, in a legal sense, the rules they have set allow for vague firings and, if they can prove that the employees in question violated those rules, there is the appearance of coincidence with their roles in protest. It reads as if Google is brushing the firings under the table, “Yeah, these people were breaking our rules and, yeah, we noticed and chose to reprimand them after they happened to be protesting the company.” Of course, if this only happened to one or two protesters it would be plausible. However, since it happened to multiple heads of different protests, this should clearly be investigated by an independent third party.
    If this were to continue, the implications would be serious. By not holding these corporations accountable for their unfair and potentially unlawful actions, it opens the door for further negative interactions between employees protesting their employers. Still, the reaction should not be so severe to where it empowers employees to abuse this and make false allegations against their employers (think false allegations in the “#MeToo” movement, in the same way they ruin the legitimacy of the actual movement). Retaliating against an employee who is within their rights is unethical and illegal, but the extent that this can be proven seems just as grey as the firings.

  6. Google’s shady actions in recent times should be concerning more than just Google employees. These employees have been protesting many projects and policies in recent times, and from the way things are changing it may be of some concern to us. Google has partnered up with government agencies such as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the US customs and Border Protections. Google has also launched a few other controversial projects and has recently hired a management firm with a reputation of squashing worker unions. Employees at Google are worried for not just their jobs, but that the openness and open culture that has always been the way at Google is being lost, with the company itself almost abandoning its employees, which they have always regarded as some of their most valuable assets. Nowadays, these employees are the bane of Google’s newest motives, and they are trying to suppress them as much as possible. Google employees recently noted a surveillance tool on their desktops that they believe the company will use to organize protests and talk about labor rights. The Google employees are also very much upset about the handling of sexual harassment complaints to certain executives. There have even been internal campaigns held against certain projects, such as a censored search engine in China. This secret project dubbed Project Dragonfly would create a search engine for the Chinese regime following their rules for internet censorship, which includes filtering out results about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protests among other things. This is extremely disappointing to hear about coming from Google; the fact that they are literally helping to suppress human rights in another place in the world is sickening to me.
    With all, it is obvious something is shifting at Google. Less trust in it’s employees, tensions rising over internal affairs and ethics. Even still, after many Google employees walked out after the #MeToo movement and the company promised to do better with regards to sexual harassment claims and issues, there are still dozens of employees who are still rightly afraid to speak out, for fear of retaliation from higher ups at Google. Workers are still rallying together and risking their own jobs to help support and represent their own colleagues that have lost their positions. It will be interesting to see what has caused this change at Google and if there will be any resolution that can make both parties satisfied.

  7. With Google already facing increased scrutiny from their antitrust inquiry, this article is very troubling for a number of reasons. First, the article states that these firings of the four women came after Google employees had a protest to show support of two other women who were placed on administrative leave because they protested again Google. This shows that Google already has a history of retaliating against employees who do not always agree with the direction of the company. With a company so powerful and influential like Google, this is very worrisome. Since Google is so powerful, the question that should be raised is “who is going to check Google’s power?”. The four women fired were involved in getting Google employees to unionize and it seems Google is trying to shut this down. The employees should be allowed to unionize so there would be a check to Google’s power. Without a union the employees are at the will of whatever Google wants to do and someone should step up to support them.
    Google claims that the women were fired because of “clear and repeated violations” of company policy. However, according to the article, Google changed their policies to make the actions of these women a fireable offense. If this is true, the people that were fired should be able to take their case to the courts and have a chance at receiving fair compensation for being fired. Google is known as a place where employees are treated very well, such as Google providing nap pods for employees, but changing policy just so they can fire employees does not seem like a company that cares about their employees. Hopefully a solution can be reached where both sides are satisfied and even though this aggressive behavior from Google cannot be proven, hopefully Google will not engage in activity like this anymore.

  8. I remember not long ago when the perception of what it was like to work for Google was one of an innovative environment – one where workers were freed from the henhouse of cubicles in favor of open floor plan workspaces; strict protocols eschewed for increased free collaboration; the simple vending machines and water coolers substituted with complimentary quality food, gourmet coffee, and smoothie bars; and company softball leagues replaced by on-site exercise facilities.

    How much was that reality, and when did it change (if at all)? I don’t have an answer for that. I am sure I could look up the particulars and watch any of the TV pieces on Google as an employer, but it’s really not all that relevant for the topic at hand. What we are discussing now has nothing to do with being able to get to work a little early, go for a quick run in the gym, grab a refreshing protein shake, and then riding your scooter over to Allison’s ergonomic stand-up work area so that the two of you can discuss the new idea you’re going to pitch that afternoon.

    What we are discussing now is, again, a giant ($927 BILLION) company oppressing its workers. Again. And I mean “again” both in terms of Google’s repeat performance, as well as what we can see from other giants like Amazon, Apple, and others.

    I know that not everyone is on board with unions. I have attended mandatory union-busting meetings held by my employer, and have felt ashamed of the company for whom I worked. I have benefitted from being in a household that features one or more union members, and from the benefits they provide by being able to more effectively negotiate with an employer.

    My primary counterargument is that if companies could be trusted to always do right by the workers, unions would not be necessary. Obviously, in the beginning, unions dealt with much more dire circumstances than nowadays. But that does not make what unions fight for now less important. Whether it is the amount the company contributes toward health benefits (or what is covered), or salary scales for the workers, these are things that have life consequences for the workers involved.

    There are varying statistics, depending on the source, but most of them hover around the point that in the last 50 years, workers’ salaries have remained largely stagnant, while CEO salaries have gone from around 40-times that of the average worker, to over 400-times that of the average worker. In the same time-frame, we have observed the shrinking of the middle class, and an increasingly huge wealth gap continuing to grow. How does this happen? Why the rechanneling of so much money upward?

    Well, for one thing, union membership has plummeted. In the 1950s, union membership was about one in three, now it is one in ten. This is not because people simply decided they no longer wanted the unions.

    Companies fearing unionization will hire firms (like IRI Consultants, in this article) who specialize in union busting. They hold meetings to propagandize union activities and costs, they track meetings of employees that follow certain criteria, and even try to limit or prohibit employees meeting on their own – like Google’s flagging meetings that have more than 100 attendees.

    Additionally, there has been a lot of legislative help, here. Many states, especially in the south, have adopted “right to work” laws, which assume the guise of giving workers more of a choice. However, what this leads to is workers opting out of paying union dues, while still usually enjoying the benefits obtained by the union. Unions are not free. What this does is effectively bleed the union dry – why would someone pay for something they could get for free?

    Companies also utilize far deeper pockets than the unions to launch large-scale (and very expensive) union busting campaigns, aimed at discrediting the unions, and turning the workers against unionizing and each other.

    For these, and many reasons, laws have been enacted to protect unions, union organizers, and union members. But, as we see with Google, here, and elsewhere, how far the laws are enforced often comes down to how much money the company in question can use to fight the problem.

    It is an awful disappointment to see a nearly-trillion-dollar company, with a new CEO that receives a $2M annual salary, $120M stock benefit, and potential of $90M more in stock bonuses, so afraid of its employees having bargaining power that it pushes (or exceeds) the limits of the law to stifle and suppress them.

    Unions are vitally important if we are even remotely interested in addressing the extreme income gap in the United States. Aside from the laws put in place to protect them, it is incumbent on the companies to allow their employees to choose for themselves – using complete information (not that furnished only by pro- and anti-union sources) – and, at the risk of lowering exorbitant executive salaries and stock dividends, do what is best for those who do the overwhelming majority of the work for that company.

    If even “forward-thinking”, “innovative”, and “employee friendly” companies like Google (especially Google, which is worth nearly ONE TRILLION DOLLARS) are incapable of being the “good guys”, then who will?

  9. “Don’t be evil and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!” These words are taken straight from Alphabet Investor Relations, Google Code of Conduct. It is concerning that employees that were following this statement were fired. Even more concerning is Google’s stance on the firings. If these employees were of such a security risk, why were they demoted, reassigned and then placed on administrative leave instead of released of their duties right away? Google is a technology powerhouse and knows it. It is my opinion that large companies that have a culture of innovative work environment do this for blind loyalty. If a company gives enough perks and creates a cult-like following by employees, why would anyone want to ruin it?
    In this case, the rising of employees trying to organize together is met with retaliation. According to the same, Google Code of Conduct, “Google prohibits retaliation against any worker here at Google who reports or participates in an investigation of a possible violation of our Code, policies or the law.” It is concerning that Google does not believe that the American people are smart enough to see through this. Unfortunately, this is the product of a company who has one of the most valuable brands in the world giving them a sense of invincibility.
    According to, Google receives 2 million job applications a year. This puts them in a supreme place of power and allows them to replace anyone at any given time, especially since most people they hire are overqualified. The fact is companies like Google have all the resources in the world to run anyone into the ground in court.

  10. After reading Kate Cox’s article about the firing of these four Google employees, I was very concerned about what this could mean for the future. Not only is a termination like this unjust, but it could set a dangerous precedent for major companies like Google. Cox details the background behind the firings and Google’s response to their employees. Despite the four former employees believing they were fired for attempting to organize, Google sent out a message that they were fired for “clear and repeated violations” of the company’s policies. The exact policy in question was also very vague, in terms of what an actual violation of the policy would entail. As we discussed in class this week, a company does not have the right to fire employees for attempting to organize. It is very unfortunate if Google actually did fire these four individuals for that reason.
    One of the quotes from the article that caught my attention was from the activists: “This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon, and we won’t stand for it” (Cox). The second part of that quote was most concerning to me. Is it possible that Google is trying to use some fancy terms to hide the real reason that these employees were fired? And if they have done it here, how many other times have they done it? This is the dangerous precedent that Google may be setting. Companies may follow this strategy and attempt to deceive the employees that are fired and the public. This type of behavior from companies should not be tolerated as it is illegal and unjust. It is important that there are activists within Google trying to get to the bottom of this matter and possibly expose Google’s wrongdoing.
    I have always seen Google as a company that only hires the best of the best and has a culture of innovation and success. They have done some amazing things with modern technology. I had always believed that working for Google was one of the most coveted jobs in the nation. However, situations like this have a truly negative effect on my perception of the company. I hope that Google can learn from this mistake and reinstate these employees. The American public needs to take notice of this issue and Google must be held accountable if they did fire these employees for attempting to organize.

  11. First of all, it seems pretty suspicious that Google encourages employees to really get to know all aspects of the company and that they should do so by reading documents from projects all over the company but then all of a sudden people are fired for looking into documents that have nothing to do with them? It seems like they are trying to hide some shady business. After using that as a reason and then proceeding to change your policy on looking at documents of other projects to look at your own risk and then Googles management will decide if its punishable and to what degree of punishment does not make sense to me. Where I think it really gets tricky is when the employees of the company are protesting against it and now Google is starting to retaliate against these groups that are known as being a part of protected organizing. It is extremely factual that Google is just union busting and making it seem like something else. To a degree union busting is not really illegal but it seems as if Google is on the line between legal and illegal and soon it looks like they are about to cross that line. Another thing, it seems like Google didn’t really fire the employees but just put them on administrative leave, as if they were trying to send a message that there is something in the company that are off limits. This is more like a warning to the affected employees and those who are protesting. The reason it seems more like a warning is because even after they sent some employees on administrative leave they then sent out a memo to all the employees explaining to them why they were put on administrative leave and that it was not because they were looking at other documents its because they had clear and repeated violations of the company’s data security policy. Well it seems I was mistaken after reading the article again they were fired, I am not going to change my comment because this is what I had thought before but I can say that honestly google is a big corporation and they can get away with a lot of things. So even though they fired these employees and people are unhappy there really is not anything they can do about it at the end of the day. They can make noise and protest but I don’t think google is going to rehire those who were fired.

  12. After reading this article, I have a different outlook on Google and the values of the company. The employees should have the right to protest if they feel like there has been some injustice and because Google fired four employees for doing so, it reveals just how vindictive they are. Through doing this, Google is also attracting a lot of negative action which is obviously bad for them and the parent company, Alphabet. Just the fact that they are trying to justify their actions and make it seem like there was a valid reason for the employees to be fired makes it even worse, rather than just owning up to what they wrongfully did.
    The quote from the activist emphasizes how sketchy and unclear policies are, making it seem as though Google can get away with basically anything which goes for a lot of other major corporations. I think this is a common occurrence among large corporations and just because they are so well known and thriving, they think they can beat the system and get away with things they should not be allowed to get away with.
    Moving forward, I think that Google should give solid reasons as to why they fire people and have straightforward policies that can’t be “adjusted” according to whatever is good for the company. Instead of doing shady things to cover up problems within the organization, they should be addressing and fixing the problems, so that it doesn’t escalate and cause even more issues. In order for Google to do damage control, it needs to appropriately address what exactly happened in this case and learn from their mistakes and not to repeat them in the future.

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