The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google and its parent company, Alphabet, on Wednesday, alleging that the tech company illegally spied on employees who had organized anti-Google protests before firing them.
The NLRB’s complaint accuses Google of violating a New Deal-era law that gives workers the right to engage in collective action about issues in the workplace, even if those employees do not belong to a union, according to the Verge.
Two of the employees specifically named in the complaint were Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, who were fired in 2019.
Berland organized a protest against Google’s decision to work with IRI Consultants, which is known for a history of union-busting.
Spiers was fired after she created a pop-up browser notification for Google employees who went to the IRI Consultants website. The notification read, “Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities.”
“I had been involved in other workplace organizing in the past, but the reason I wanted to push this change was a combination of Google hiring IRI and four of my co-workers being fired the same day,” Spiers said in a statement. “I thought a lot of my co-workers could use a reminder of their rights.”
According to the NLRB’s complaint, Google used workplace policies, such as restricting how calendars could be used, to prevent employees from engaging in organized activities.
They also interrogated employees who did participate in organized activities in order to discourage other workers from organizing.
Google denied any wrongdoing and said its workplace culture has always featured “open discussion and respectful debate.”
“We’re proud of that culture and are committed to defending it against attempts by individuals to deliberately undermine it—including by violating security policies and internal system,” the company said in a statement. “The NLRB determined today that Google was justified in terminating three employees who violated our data security policies.”