A new and somewhat bizarre lawsuit filed against Google accuses the search giant of running an “internal spying program” and forcing employees to adhere to “illegal confidentiality agreements, policies, guidelines and practices.”
The lawsuit was filed earlier this week by an anonymous product manager. The suit claims that Google’s employment agreements expressly prohibit Google personnel from reporting illegal conduct they may have witnessed or even bringing to light potentially dangerous product defects. The complaint alleges that Google discourages the aforementioned type of whistle blowing activities because such statements might ultimately resurface during legal proceedings.
The complaint also details that Google’s employment agreement precludes employees from disclosing their base pay to potential employers and even from discussing what their working experience at Google was like.
“The policies even prohibit Googlers from speaking to their spouse or friends about whether they think their boss could do a better job,” the complaint adds.
Also interesting is the allegation that Google “prohibits employees from writing creative fiction”, without prior approval, if the main character works at a tech company in Silicon Valley.
The lawsuit takes the position that Google’s sweeping confidentiality agreements are unnecessarily broad and ultimately violate California labor laws.
The complaint reads in part:
The unnecessary and inappropriate breadth of the policies are intended to control Google’s former and current employees, limit competition, infringe on constitutional rights, and prevent the disclosure and reporting of misconduct. The policies are wrong and illegal.
In regards to the allegations that Google wants employees to keep illegal activity and potentially dangerous products on the down low, the complaint reads:
Google restricts what Googlers say internally in order to conceal potentially illegal conduct. It instructs employees in its training programs to do the following: “Don’t send an email that says, ‘I think we broke the law’ or ‘I think we violated this contract.'”
The training program also advises employees that they should not be candid when speaking with Google’s attorneys about dangerous products or violations of the law. The program advises Googlers that some jurisdictions do not recognize the attorney-client privilege and “Inside the U.S., government agencies often pressure companies to waive the privilege.”
As a point of interest, the plaintiff in this case has been a Google employee for just over 2 years and, per the complaint, was recently outed, albeit falsely, for leaking proprietary information to the press.
Google has since issued a statement to The Verge relaying that it “will defend this suit vigorously because it’s baseless.”
The full suit can be read below.