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Google will confirm that employees can discuss ‘workplace issues’ as part of a settlement

Google will confirm that employees can discuss ‘workplace issues’ as part of a settlement

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Illustration by Alex Castro

Google will affirm that employees can discuss workplace issues, following a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). According to The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news today, the agreement covers complaints about Google reacting unfavorably to “workplace dissent.” Google won’t need to admit wrongdoing, but it will need to inform employees of their speech rights.

Google confirmed the settlement in a statement to The New York Times and The Verge. “We have agreed to post a notice to our employees reminding them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act,” a spokesperson said. “As a part of that notice, we will also remind employees of the changes we made to our workplace policies back in 2016 and 2017 that clarified those policies do not prevent employees from discussing workplace issues.”

Trump promoted one of the complainants on Twitter

The Journal writes that one of the complaints involves Kevin Cernekee, who alleged he was fired for his conservative political beliefs. (The Daily Caller later published posts where Cernekee suggested raising money for neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, something Cernekee claimed was unrelated to Spencer’s politics.) President Trump promoted Cernekee on Twitter after he appeared on Fox Business, raising Cernekee’s profile. A second complaint reportedly involved an employee who posted “unflattering opinions” about a Google executive on Facebook.

The Journal initially reported that the settlement covered talking about “political and workplace” issues. In a statement, Google partially denied that description. “There has been some misreporting this morning about Google’s workplace,” the spokesperson told The Verge. While she confirmed that Google had settled Cernekee’s complaint, “there is absolutely no mention of political activity in the proposed settlement.”

Apparently unrelated to this settlement, Google has been accused of retaliating against workplace activists like Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker, who helped organize a mass walkout to protest Google’s handling of sexual misconduct. And when Google updated some policies on employee conduct in August, critics argued that it could use the new rules to suppress protest over military or immigration agency contracts. Google said that these updates are “completely unrelated and unaffected” by the settlement.