Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company, has been accused of violating federal US law by retaliating against an employee in a case which has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
The development comes after multiple walkouts by thousands of employees from Google around the world in November, 2018, protesting Google’s handling of sexual allegations against Android creator, Andy Rubin. Google had found “credible evidence” against Rubin and had asked him to resign in 2014, albiet with a $90 Mn exit package.
Now the organisers of the walkout are accusing Google of punishing them of their activism. A marketing manager at Youtube, Claire Stapleton has alleged that she was demoted and has been asked to take medical leave despite the fact that she wasn’t ill, a US-based media organisation Vox reported.
The filing, made on April 22, accuses Google of violating Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which states that it is an “unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights”. The filing was made by an unidentified individual and the case has been assigned to the National Labor Relations Board’s New York office.
A Google spokesperson speaking to Vox said that “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations. Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs,”
The walkout in November which started because of a New York Times article, was because of the gender disparity in exit packages favoring the males and staying silent on sexual misconduct.
Over the last few years, employees of large multinationals have been vocal towards workers’ rights. Last year, Google engineers refused to work on a security feature that would have won the company large military contracts.
In April 2018, a letter was circulating inside Google urging Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, to cancel project MAVEN, an AI based drone surveillance project Google was working on. “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the letter read.
“Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable,” the letter further stated. This letter was signed by 3,100 Google employees, New York Times reported.
Earlier this month, more than 4,500 Amazon employees wrote a letter to CEO and founder Jeff Bezos urging Amazon to do more for battling climate change. The list of signatories include many prominent software developers, managers and scientists working in the company.
It is rare for employees of large tech giants to openly air their dissent with the company. This has clearly changed over the last year or so. The move by Google employees is the latest signal that tech workers are increasingly willing to critique, challenging their management over issues ranging from military contracts to treatment of women at the workplace to impact of the company’s operations on the environment.