Two former Google employees say the US labor board will charge the company with unlawfully spying on, then firing, workers involved in protests



a person holding a sign: Tyler Sonnemaker/Business Insider


© Tyler Sonnemaker/Business Insider
Tyler Sonnemaker/Business Insider

  • The National Labor Relations Board will file a complaint accusing Google of violating several labor laws during a crackdown of worker activism last year, according to two of the employees who were terminated.
  • The complaint will state that Google unlawfully terminated two employees involved in worker activism.
  • It will also state that Google violated US labor laws by monitoring and interrogating workers involved in the protests.
  • Five employees were fired late last year for their involvement in protests at the company. Two of those employees are mentioned in the complaint.
  • Are you a current or former Google insider? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-628-228-1836) or encrypted email ([email protected]). Reach out using a nonwork device.
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The National Labor Relations Board will issue a complaint accusing Google of violating several labor laws during a crackdown of worker activism last year, according to two of the employees who were terminated.

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The complaint will allege that Google violated labor laws by monitoring and interrogating workers involved in the protests and then firing them.

Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, both of whom were fired by the company late last year for involvement of employee activism, are named in the complaint. 

Google accused Berland and Spiers of violating its data-security policies when it terminated their employment late last year.

Berland was fired for accessing other employees’ calendars while organizing efforts to protest Google’s work with IRI, an anti-union firm – something the NLRB says Google was wrong to terminate Berland for.

Spiers was a security engineer at Google who created a pop-up notification that appeared when employees visited the IRI website. The notification told employees they had a right to “participate in protected concerted activities.” The NLRB has found that Spiers’ termination was also unlawful.

“This complaint makes clear that workers have the right to speak to issues of ethical business and the composition of management,” said Berland in a statement.

“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. 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.”

The NLRB did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. A Google spokesperson had not responded with a comment by the time of publication.

The NLRB filing relates only to the termination of Berland and Spiers, but not the other three employees who were also terminated around the time. That includes Rebecca Rivers, a former employee who helped create a petition that demanded Google end its work with US Customers and Border Protection.

Laurie Burgess, counsel for the Google workers, said they intended to “vigorously appeal” the dismissal of charges related to the other employees who were involved in protests that were determined to be not covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

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