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Google engineers claim they were fired for following its ‘don’t be evil’ policy

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The employees accuse Google of firing them for calling the company out on its ‘evil’ doings

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Three ex-Google employees claim that Google has a contractual obligation to abide by its well-known “don’t be evil” policy, and they are suing the company for allegedly terminating them for calling out Google’s “evil” doings, via NPR.

The former workers Sophie Waldman, Rebecca Rivers, and Paul Duke were fired — in addition to a fourth employee, Laurence Berland — in November 2019 for allegedly violating the company’s data security policies, however, they claim they didn’t leak any confidential information. Earlier this year, the acting head of the National Labor Relations Board said that Google “arguably violated” US labor laws by firing the three employees, alleging that Google terminated the employees in retaliation for their activism.

In the lawsuit filed in the state of California, the group accuses Google of partaking in “evil,” and subsequently punishing them for calling the company out on it. The lawsuit states that at the time Waldman, Rivers, and Duke were hired by Google, they all signed a contract that included the “don’t be evil” rule. So when the employees questioned and petitioned against Google’s controversial cloud computing contract with the Trump administration’s Customs and Border Patrol in 2019, they believed that they were in accordance with their contracts, citing the potential instances of human rights abuses at the border.

“Don’t be evil” has been a part of Google’s Code of Conduct since the early 2000s. Although Google’s parent company, Alphabet, replaced it with “do the right thing” in 2015, the phrase is still alive and well in Google’s most recent Code of Conduct, stating: “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!”