Google fires four employees for 'clear and repeated violations' of its data security policies, apparently including one whose suspension inspired a protest at a Google office
- Google circulated a memo on Monday that informed its employees that it had fired four workers, for what the company said were "clear and repeated violations" of its policies around data security.
- The memo said that the Google employees under investigation had searched and distributed information outside the scope of their jobs, according to Bloomberg.
- The memo comes days after more than 200 Googlers demonstrated in solidarity with two colleagues who had been suspended over allegations of improperly accessing internal data.
- While Google declined to name the four employees referred to in the memo, the Washington Post reports that one of them was Rebecca Rivers, who was one of the two Googlers at the heart of the proest.
- The two employees said at the protest that they had been singled out for their criticism of different Google policies. Google has denied any ulterior motive for its disciplinary actions in both cases.
- "With these firings, Google is ramping up its illegal retaliation against workers engaging in protected organising. This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon, and we won't stand for it," a Google activist account said in a statement published later on Monday.
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Google terminated four employees on Monday, citing "clear and repeated violations" of its data-security policies, according to a memo obtained and published by Bloomberg's Gerrit De Vynck, Mark Bergen, and Ryan Gallagher on Monday.
"Our thorough investigation found the individuals were involved in systematic searches for other employees' materials and work. This includes searching for, accessing, and distributing business information outside the scope of their jobs," the memo said.
A spokesperson for Google declined to comment to Business Insider, apart from confirming the authenticity of the memo.
The terminations come just days after an employee protest at the search giant's San Francisco offices, where approximately 200 Googlers demonstrated in solidarity with two colleagues who had been suspended over allegations by their employer of improperly accessing and sharing documents and of tracking employees' calendars.
One of those suspended employees, Rebecca Rivers, tweeted on Friday that Google terminated her position, with the Washington Post reporting that she was one of the four referred to in the memo. Google declined to release the names of the affected employees.
Rivers and Laurence Berland, the other suspended employee at the heart of the protest, have denied Google's allegations.
Speaking at that rally on Friday, Rivers said she never spread confidential information outside the company, and insinuated that Google's investigation focused more on her activism against the company's work with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). Berland, for his part, similarly said at the protest that he had been targeted for "retaliation" by Google for his criticism of how YouTube handles hate speech.
Google has denied any ulterior motive for suspending or terminating contracts. Rivers and Berland were not immediately available for comment.
Later on Monday, a Medium account associated with employee activism at Google published a statement alleging that the firings were an attempt by the company to crack down on employee organisation.
"With these firings, Google is ramping up its illegal retaliation against workers engaging in protected organising. This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon, and we won't stand for it," the statement reads, in part. Google was not immediately available for comment on this statement.
Google's workplace has been repeatedly disrupted by employee activism over the past year, including the famed Google Walkout, where workers walked out over the company's handling in cases of executives accused of sexual misconduct, as well as company's contracts with different government agencies, including the US military.
Meanwhile, workplace retaliation has been a major concern for Googlers over the past few months. Previously, Google Walkout co-organisers Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton left the company, citing fears of retaliation. In September, Motherboard published a collection of 45 stories where Google employees gave their own accounts of alleged retaliation for speaking up or reporting abuse at the company.
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