Ex-Google Employees Fired For Protests File Complaint Against Firm

Former employees at Google have filed a labor complaint at the federal level that accuses the tech giant of illegally firing them for their role in protesting the partnership Google has with the Israeli government.

The people who participated in the protest also were asking for better working conditions at Google.

The complaint was filed on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board. It claims that Google violated their rights “by terminating and/or placing them on administrative leave in response to their protected concerted activity, namely, participation (or perceived participation) in a peaceful, non-disruptive protest that was directly and explicitly connected to their terms and conditions of work.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of that complaint.

Some workers at Google staged a sit-in on April 16 at offices in Sunnyvale, California, Seattle and New York City. They were trying to call to attention the $1.2 billion joint contract that Amazon and Google have with Israel.

Referred to as Project Nimbus, the contract provides AI and cloud-computing services to the government of Israel.

The sit-in was organized by the group called No Tech for Apartheid. It lasted for about 10 hours, with at least nine of the people participating arrested by police after they refused to leave.

Just one day after the sit-ins, Google fired nearly 30 employees. Another 20 people were followed the week after.

No Tech for Apartheid said in an April 22 statement that Google ultimately fired about 50 employees for their role in the protests. Google wouldn’t confirm that final figure.

In a statement provided to media outlets, a spokesperson for Google said:

“This is a very clear case of employees disrupting and occupying work spaces, and making other employees feel threatened and unsafe. By any standard, their behavior was completely unacceptable — and widely seen as such.

“We carefully confirmed and reconfirmed that every single person whose employment was terminated was directly and definitely involved in disruption inside our buildings. We are confident in our position and stand by the actions we’ve taken.”

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, had his office in Sunnyvale occupied by some of the workers who were protesting. In an email that was sent one day after the start of the firings, he told staff members at the company that the workplace shouldn’t be used to “fight over disruptive issues or debate politics.”

The workers are arguing that they had the right to protest over wanting working conditions to improve, and that includes work on developing software services such as what is included in the contract with Israel.

One fired software engineer who wished to remain anonymous commented to the National Review:

“That’s legally protected activity. Sundar can say he doesn’t want that, but the National Labor Relations Act says otherwise. Google is probably the most powerful company in the world, and the work the workers do every day has an incredible impact.

“To pretend it’s objective and you can’t talk about the effects of that is absurd.”