Labor

Former Employee Sues Google, Claims It Maintained an Internal Spy Network That Encouraged Workers to Snitch on Each Other

Did Google illegally monitor its workers' electronic devices?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA/USA - October 12, 2013: View of Google office building. Google is a multinational corporation specializing in Internet-related services and products.
Photo Credit: turtix / Shutterstock.com

Tech news site the Information reports that a former Google employee is suing the company, claiming it maintained an internal spying program that encouraged workers to rat each other out.

The lawsuit was filed by a former product manager who claims that the alleged program violates California labor law. The same person filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against Google and its sister firm Nest this June. The NLRB complaint alleged that the employee was terminated after making a social media post that was critical of the company. The allegation also contends that the companies illegally monitored workers’ electronic devices to prevent them from airing criticisms of Google.

The lawsuit points out that employees should be able to discuss workplace conditions without fearing retaliatory action.

Google has called the lawsuit “baseless.” The Information piece quotes a statement from the company:

We’re very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees details of product launches and confidential business information. Transparency is a huge part of our culture. Our employee confidentiality requirements are designed to protect proprietary business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and conditions of employment, or workplace concerns.

If the lawsuit ends up being successful, it could be extremely expensive for Google. The Information report breaks down the math:

Google could be fined up to $100 for each of the 12 alleged violations in the suit, multiplied by 65,000 employees. If an allegedly unlawful policy lasted for more than one pay period, the fine doubles to $200 per pay period, per employee, for up to a year. If ‘Doe’ prevails on every allegation in the lawsuit, the maximum fine would be $3.8 billion, with about $14,600 going to each Google employee.

Read the entire article at the Information’s website.

Michael Arria is an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editorFollow @MichaelArria on Twitter.

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