Google claims that its employees have no legal right to protest its choice of clients.
Company lawyers made the claim during a court case over whether Google violated the National Labor Relations Act by “unlawfully discharging” activist employees.
In December 2020, the National Labor Relations Board alleged that Google illegally fired, interrogated, and surveilled activist employees, based on complaints brought to it by the Communications Workers of America union.
Google tried "to discourage employees from engaging in” legally-protected activism, the NLRB said. For example, one of the employees wrote code for a pop-up message about labor law rights on certain websites.
But the Agency dismissed the Communications Workers of America union's claim that Google also fired staffers who were organizing against contracts with US Customs and Border Protection. Lawyers at the Agency said that it fell outside the scope of federal labor law protection.
Then, in May 2021, after Biden fired and replaced the labor board’s general counsel, the NLRB said that Google had “arguably violated” federal labor law in firing Rebecca Rivers, Paul Duke, and Sophie Waldman.
The three former employees had circulated a petition against Google's cloud contracts with the Customs and Border Protection.
Google claims it fired them not because of the petition, "but because in the pursuit of their protest, they accessed highly confidential information that they had no right to access."
However, the company's attorney argued, if it had fired them because of the petition, that would also have been fine.
“Even if Google had, for the sake of argument, terminated the employees for their protest activities - for protesting their choice of customers - this would not violate the Act,” Google’s attorney Al Latham said in his opening statement Tuesday at a labor board trial.