A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fifth fired Google worker files federal labour complaint

SAN FRANCISCO — A fifth former Google worker has filed a complaint with federal regulators accusing the company of improperly firing employees for labour organizing activity.

Kathryn Spiers, a security engineer, said Google fired her after she created a pop-up notification for employees to inform them of their labour rights.

In late November,Google fired four other workers for what the company said was violations of its data security policy. Those workers say they don’t believe they violated company policies and that Google was really firing them because they were all involved in various organizing activities at the company. Google disputes that.

Google is known for having one of the most outspoken workforces in tech. Employees have pushed back on issues ranging from the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations to its contracts with federal agencies.

But lately, some workers say, the company has been losing patience with its traditionally open culture and is cracking down on labour organizing.

Spiers wrote in a post published on Medium that part of her job was to create browser notifications to remind employees of company policies. After The New York Times published a report revealing that Google had hired a consulting firm traditional known for being anti-union, Spiers created a pop-up that told employees they were allowed to participate in “protected concerted activities.”

The notification showed up when employees visited the consulting group’s website.

Google says Spiers was fired because she “misused a security and privacy tool to create a pop-up that was neither about security nor privacy,” according to an email sent by vice-president Royal Hansen and provided by a Google spokesperson.

Spiers did not have authorization for the pop-up, Hansen wrote, and said that the “decision would have been the same had the pop-up message been on any other subject.”

Under a settlement Google reached with the National Labor Relations Board in September, the company agreed to post notices to remind employees of their federal rights.

Spiers’ notification did just that, she wrote.

“During my time on the security team, I’ve had many conversations about the importance of maintaining user trust,” Spiers wrote. “My code — a small notification about employee rights — does not reduce trust.”

Spiers had been involved in organizing at Google, she wrote on Twitter, including employee resistance to the company working with Customs and Border Patrol.

The five workers have filed unfair labour practice complaints with the NLRB.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Statistics Canada says economy grew 3.0 per cent in July

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says real gross domestic product grew by three… Continue reading

Molly Banister Drive public hearing date moved to Oct. 27

Large interest from Red Deerians prompted the change

Financial aid for workers hurt by COVID-19 gets unanimous support in Commons

Liberal government survives first pandemic-era confidence test

CRTC’s undercover shoppers find fault with 1-in-5 interactions with wireless sellers

20 per cent of shoppers felt they were given misleading information

Tractor fire east of Ponoka doused

Flames extinguished with foam additive

Wetaskiwin restaurant asks City for help with excessive property damage caused by continuous loiterers

Employees say that they are scared for themselves and their customers.

Quebec’s second wave driven by community transmission, muddled messaging, expert says

MONTREAL — Quebecers following the COVID-19 news in recent days may be… Continue reading

Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

WASHINGTON — After more than a year of circling each other, Republican… Continue reading

31.4% spring slide for a US economy likely to shrink in 2020

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy plunged at an unprecedented rate this spring… Continue reading

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

At 30, Germany is best-run on planet

I have just spent two weeks driving around Germany interviewing people (mostly… Continue reading

Most Read