Three former Google workers have sued the company claiming they were wrongfully fired for protesting cloud contracts with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency during the Trump administration.
They also allege that they were falsely accused of leaking information to the media, and were targeted because they were gay or trans. The three former staffers were among a group of five, three of which are trans, one is gay, and one is heterosexual.
“Google decided to start punishing employees for fulfilling their contractual commitment to ‘call out’ conduct they believed to be inhumane or ‘evil,’” the three said, referring to Google's now-retired 'Don't be Evil' mandate.
Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke filed a lawsuit with the state court in Santa Clara County, California, claiming the company violated state law by targeting gay and trans employees for termination, breach of contract, and slandering Rivers.
In their version of the timeline, Sophie Waldman questioned whether Google would work with Customs and Border Protection in July 2019 in an internal forum post that saw hundreds of fellow Googlers chime in.
In response, Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud CEO, said that the company would not participate in any projects “associated with the southern border,” claiming it would only work on “good stuff’ like crop protection.
But two months later, Rivers says she found that Google was already offering a free trial of its Anthos cloud platform to the CBP, something that was reported by Business Insider at the time. In August, DCD discovered procurement notices that said that CBP was using Google Cloud Platform, along with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, and Oracle Cloud.
By that point, the agency had already been linked to the violent sexual assault of children in its care. CBP chief John Sanders had resigned two months earlier saying the agency could not cope with the number of illegal immigrants it was arresting under its expanded remit. Also by August, at least 24 people had died in the custody of sister agency ICE since President Trump’s inauguration, including children.
Following Rivers' discovery, the trio claim that Google hired a consulting firm and adopted a plan called “Project Vivian" to quell internal protests and protect the company's brand.
In November 2019, it fired all three “within minutes of one another," claiming they had violating data security policies through unauthorized searches for information outside the scope of their core job, and shared them externally. They deny the claim.
The Communications Workers of America union previously tried to get the National Labor Relations Board to look at the case, but were dismissed because lawyers at the Agency said that it fell outside the scope of federal labor law protection.
But the NLRB is separately investigating claims that Google illegally fired, interrogated, and surveilled activist employees. This week, the agency said that Google tried to improperly withhold documents from the case, delaying the trial.
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