The Google “Adult Content Liability Release” PAGA Settlement
If you are a Google or Google/Adecco employee, you either have or may soon receive a small check and a notice explaining there has been a “PAGA” settlement related to the “Adult Content Liability Release” that Google or Adecco made you sign as a condition of working for them.
This is what happened.
As a condition of working for them, Google and Adecco made its workers “release Google and its subsidiaries and affiliates from any and all liability associated with having” so-called “Adult Content” in the work place. The mandatory release expressly includes “claims of harassment, hostile work environment, and discrimination.”
Plaintiffs contend this release was illegal. Among other things, you can’t make employees waive their right to bring harassment and discrimination claims as a condition of accepting a job. Google argued that this is not what the release actually did. You can look at the release here and draw your own conclusions, but know there is a dispute.
After Plaintiffs notified the State of California about the release, Google rescinded the release and issued a new policy. A copy of Google’s new policy, as well as its announcement about the release being rescinded, can be found here. The new policy should also be on Google’s intranet.
No employer can make you release important claims as a condition of working for them.
Accordingly, and notwithstanding the release, you have the right to bring claims against Google and Adecco for harassment, hostile work environment, or discrimination. Notwithstanding the release, you have the right to file workers compensation claims against Google and Adecco if you suffer harm as a result of reviewing so-called “Adult Content” in the workplace.
Moreover, the right to bring claims even applies to employees whose job it is to review this material for the purpose of responding, for example, to take down requests. Google’s “content moderators,” in particular, have a really hard job, and it can be a harmful one, as explained here by the Wall Street Journal. These employees do not have to waive their legal remedies in order to take the job.
After significant litigation, the parties settled without Google admitting liability. Through the settlement, Google agreed to pay more than $1,000,000 in what is essentially a fine (or “civil penalties”). This amount comes to about $100 per employee who signed the release within the statute of limitations period. The settlement period and amount is consistent with the judge’s earlier ruling as it relates to the statute of limitations period for different releases that were part of the litigation.
Also, because this case is brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), 75% of the civil penalties goes to the State and 25% goes to each employee who signed the release in the relevant time period. Hence, the small check. Moreover, pursuant to the “common fund” doctrine, the Court ordered that attorneys’ fees, costs, and incentive payments be paid out the settlement amount. A decent internet article on the common fund doctrine and attorneys’ fees can be found here.
Now, here is the important part.
- The settlement in this case does not release any claims you have as individuals. It only releases the “PAGA” claims.
- The settlement does not release even PAGA claims by temporary workers other than Adecco’s. If you are a contractor working for Google who did not work through Adecco, you retain even your PAGA claims.
- Plaintiffs contend that even the Adecco employees have not released their PAGA claims against Adecco. That litigation is still proceeding.
If you want read the most relevant pleadings in this case, including the settlement agreement, they are set forth below. You can also find all the pleadings in this case at the San Francisco Superior Court website. The case name is Doe v. Google, and the case number is CGC-16-556034. Also, if you have any questions, you can call us at 415.433.1064, email us at [email protected]
Thank you for reading this.
Baker Curtis & Schwartz, P.C.
List of Related Pleadings
|Sept. 14, 2017||ORDER Sustaining in Part Adecco’s Demurrer|
|Nov. 21, 2017||Operative (Fifth Amended) Complaint (without exhibits)|
|Dec. 22, 2017||ORDER Denying Google and Alphabet’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings|
|May 31, 2018||Settlement Agreement (without attachments)|
|June 1, 2018||Motion for Approval of Settlement|
|June 1, 2018||Baker Declaration in Support of Motion for Approval of Settlement|
|June 1, 2018||Motion for Fees, Costs and Incentive Payment|
|June 1, 2018||Baker Declaration in Support of Motion for Fees, Costs, etc.|
|June 25, 2018||ORDER Approving Settlement Agreement|
|June 25, 2018||ORDER Approving Fees, Costs and Incentive Payments|