Google Settles Claims Related to Workplace Confidentiality Policy

​Google recently settled a 2016 lawsuit alleging that it used illegal practices to stop employees from complaining about the workplace. The lawsuit claimed the company’s confidentiality policies were unlawful.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant has about 187,000 workers. It did not respond to a request for comment. We’ve gathered a group of articles on the news from SHRM Online and other trusted sources.

Corporate Confidentiality Policy

The case stemmed from the termination of a worker at Google-owned Nest, who was fired for posting complaints about the company’s management on Facebook. In terminating the employee, Google said the person had violated the company’s data classification guidelines that prohibited staff from divulging confidential information.

The employee alleged that the company’s data classification guidelines were too broad. California labor law requires corporate confidentiality policies to allow employees to speak out about labor conditions. Google later revised the guidelines in 2017.

The case was filed under California’s Private Attorneys General Act, which permits individuals to sue on behalf of the government for alleged labor code violations. Most of the settlement, which is still subject to court approval, will go to the state, with around 100,000 Google employees getting around $20 to $70 each.

(Yahoo! News)

Curtailing Speech

The plaintiff alleged that Google prohibited workers from speaking to the press, disclosing how much they earned, telling others about their working conditions and reporting rule violations to Securities and Exchange Commission workers. The lawsuit also shared details about various alleged anti-whistleblowing measures.

Google spokesperson Courtenay Mencini said, “Google decided that resolution of the matter, without any admission of wrongdoing, is in the best interest of everyone.”


Protected Actions

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees workers the right to discuss wages and working conditions with co-workers. However, there is no First Amendment free speech protection for private employees in the workplace. Private employers generally can fire or discipline workers for posting offensive content publicly on social media.

(SHRM Online and SHRM Online)

Sex Discrimination Case

A jury recently ordered Google to pay $1.15 million to a New York executive who claimed the company discriminated against her based on her gender, retaliated against her when she complained, and denied her a promotion that went to a less-qualified man. The jury found Google guilty of sex discrimination and retaliation, but not guilty of violating New York’s pay discrimination law.

(SHRM Online)

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