Another Google employee added her name to a list of workers who say they were fired for legally advocating for labour rights inside the company.
Kathryn Spiers, 21, said she was fired Dec 13 after she developed a notification that told colleagues they had the right to participate in labour organising when they visited the website of IRI Consultants, a firm that advises employers on how to combat unions.
The New York Times recently reported that Google hired IRI and Spiers’ notification said "Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities”. It also included a link to a list of employee rights and protections that Google agreed to post as part of a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board this year. The alert also appeared when employees visited a Google "community guidelines policy”, according to Spiers.
Google responded by suspending Spiers without warning, "interrogating” and then terminating her for violating the company’s security policies, she said.
"Google has overreacted in an egregious, illegal and discriminatory manner,” said Spiers, who hopes to be reinstated as a company employee. "The notification I wrote had no negative effect on our users or other employees and Google will do its best to justify my firing in a way that pins workers against each other.”
Google would not confirm the person’s name, but a spokeswoman said the company "dismissed an employee who abused privileged access to modify an internal security tool. This was a serious violation.” The company says the worker abused her position to create the notification without a business reason and that the content of the pop-up had nothing to do with her firing.
The world’s largest Internet search provider has traditionally been open, with employees encouraged to debate company policies and speak up if they see something they’re concerned about. However, a series of internal protests in recent years has sparked a crackdown under chief executive officer Sundar Pichai.
Alphabet Inc’s Google recently fired four other workers, saying they broke rules about accessing colleagues’ documents and calendars. Those employees also disputed Google’s reasons and have said they were fired for workplace advocacy.
Spiers said she wanted to work at Google since childhood. She saw the Internet giant as a place where she could have a positive impact on millions of people. She left high school early to work at tech startups, then joined Google about two years ago at 19. Spiers participated in employee activism as soon as she arrived, signing petitions and protesting against the company’s handling of harassment of LGBTQ creators on YouTube.
Spiers worked on the Platform Security team, focusing on the use of Google’s Chrome web browser within the company. Making notifications for internal use was part of her job, according to Spiers. The pop-up in question also wasn’t unusual for Google. When 20,000 workers walked out of their offices to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations in 2018, an icon of a penguin that appears on many computer screen backgrounds at the company was changed to show the creature holding a protest sign, Spiers said.
"The company has never reacted aggressively in response to a notification such as this in the past,” she added. "It’s always been a celebrated part of the culture.” – Bloomberg