Statement On The Google Blackout Case
Google claims that everything at Google is “confidential.” Indeed, in its Data Classification Guidelines, Google instructs its employees – upon threat of termination – that they must treat even public information as “confidential” by default.
Fortunately for Googlers, it is illegal for an employer to declare everything “confidential.” California law gives employees the right to disclose information about their wages and working conditions. Cal. Labor Code §§ 232, 232.5. The law gives them the right to blow the whistle both inside and outside the company. Labor Code § 1102.5. The law gives them the right to engage in lawful conduct during non-work hours. This includes the constitutional right to free speech. Cal Labor Code §§ 96(k) and 98.6.
Google’s illegal confidentiality agreements, policies, and practices have real-world consequences. They harm employees. They restrict competition and freedom of speech. They suppress the legal right of employees to blow the whistle when they see something wrong.
There is a dedicated “Investigations Team” at Google – led by a former government operative – who is charged with tracking down every supposed leak. This team asks employees to preemptively confess to potential violations of illegal policies. The team directs employees to report or inform on one another. This is unnecessarily authoritarian.
Google can do better. It must change its illegal agreements and policies. It must allow fair competition, even from former employees. It must clearly advise employees of their rights under California law, and then it must act accordingly. To date, Google has steadfastly refused to do so.
For these reasons, a Complaint has been filed against Google under California’s Private Attorneys General Act.
If you have information about Google’s illegal confidentiality policies and agreements, or if you would like to share how these illegal policies or agreements have affected you or others, please send us a message using the on-line form on this webpage. You can also contact us at 415-433-1064.