Google employees free to express views under settlement with US

13 Sep 2019 / 10:43 H.

SAN FRANCISCO: Google said Thursday said it will remind workers they are free to express views on “workplace issues” as part of a settlement with a US government agency investigating the internet giant.

Under the terms of the agreement with the US National Labor Relations Board, Google will post digital notices on its internal employee computer network and physical copies at its Silicon Valley headquarters reminding employees of their rights.

The agreement comes in the wake of a labor complaint by a fired engineer who alleged he was targeted for his conservative views.

“Under the settlement, we have agreed to post a notice to our employees reminding them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act,“ said a Google spokeswoman, adding that notices would remain up for 60 days.

Google maintained the deal contained “no mention of political activity” and that it was maintaining a policy encouraging employees to steer clear of partisan debate on the job.

The settlement closes a complaint made to the NLRB by fired engineer Kevin Cernekee and another worker who opted to remain anonymous.

Cernekee portrayed himself a victim of an anti-conservative environment at Google, but the company countered that it was not political beliefs that cost the engineer his job.

According to media reports, Cernekee had been linked to white nationalist groups, and was fired because he violated company policies including using a personal device to download internal Google documents.

US President Donald Trump has referenced unproven claims by Cernekee while criticizing Google.

Trump has assailed Google on several occasions, claiming bias against him and his supporters without providing supporting evidence.

Google has repeatedly rejected the claims as baseless.

Google last month told employees to focus on work instead of heated debates about politics with colleagues at the internet company, which has long been known for encouraging people to speak their minds.

Updated workplace guidelines for “Googlers” called on them to be responsible, helpful, and thoughtful during exchanges on internal message boards or other conversation forums.

In recent years, Google employees have challenged the company on issues including sexual harassment in the workplace; bidding on contracts with US defense or immigration agencies; and the potential for tailoring its online search engine for use on China’s heavily censored internet. — AFP

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