Don’t be evil.
Up until last year, those words were not only part of Google’s official Code of Conduct, but served as its longstanding, albeit unofficial, motto. However, recent actions seem to be calling that phrase’s legacy at Google into question.
The company’s firing of the recently dubbed "Thanksgiving Four" has led the National Labor Relations Board to launch an investigation into the Mountain View, Calif., technology giant. The controversy surrounding these employees stemmed from the collective’s outspoken views about organizing a union. Google stated that these individuals' pro-union activities had nothing to do with their firing, because they were let go due to “intentional and often repeated violations of long-standing data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees’ materials and work.”
The four have denied these charges and allege that Google retroactively applied new data protection rules to previous actions. The complaint was filed for these four individuals by the Communications Workers of America union and the AFL-CIO.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, one element not helping Google’s case is the apparent use of an internal monitoring tool that automatically reports employees who create a calendar event that encompassing more than 10 rooms or 100 participants. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, states this is simply a way to ensure resources are being used responsibly.
However, this type of alarm, coupled with Google’s recent hiring of IRI Consultants, a well-known New York-based law firm that has a reputation for helping large healthcare providers steer clear of union formation, has many questioning the company’s true motives. The company’s connection to IRI was discovered and made public by anonymous employees.
The union talk at Google stems from what some feel is the need to protect employees who have protested the company’s handling of sexual harassment complaints and its work with the Department of Homeland Security.
The NRLB is now charged with investigating the merits of the complaint, and if it makes sense to proceed with charges.