A Nest employee was fired after sharing internal content on Facebook, now he's taking Google to court

Mark Bergen
Tony Fadell
Getty Images

A former manager for Nest has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Google, its parent company, for unfair labor practices after being fired from Nest.

The employee was fired after he posted internal communication on his Facebook page. Google employees had created tongue-in-cheek memes on its internal message board that were critical of Nest CEO Tony Fadell after he visited Google's all-hands staff meeting to defend his company's performance following a string of critical stories — some of which included leaks of product developments.

Recode published some of these images, which were created by Googlers upset with Fadell's management style and Nest's decision to shut down one of its products.

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The complaint suggests that Google saw the Facebook post as a violation of its employee conduct policies — so Google canned him.

The Information first reported on the NLRB complaint, identifying the employee as a male. According to the report, the head of Google's security team interrogated the employee about the leak. Sources told Recode that other Nest employees were also brought in, but no others were fired.

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Chris Baker, the lawyer representing the former Nest manager, is arguing that Google's actions violate national labor laws entitling employees the right to organize and protect themselves by sharing information to outsiders and the press.

He wrote briefly about the complaint, referring to it as the "Nest Witch Hunt Case":

Employees have the right to discuss their working conditions. Employees have the right to effectuate change by talking with co-workers, former co-workers, bosses, and even reporters about their working conditions. Employees have the right to use social media for these purposes...

Google must revise its confidentiality policies to make clear that employees have the right to discuss their working conditions with whomever they wish. Google must revise its code of conduct to make clear that complaining about their working conditions is not forbidden. Google, and especially Nest, must stop the witch hunt for employees who exercise their legal right to try and improve Nest's working environment.

Google's confidentiality agreement says there aren't any restrictions on discussing working conditions "as protected by applicable law," according to someone who has seen the agreement.

A Google rep declined to say if the memes shared on Facebook fall under this protection. The rep declined to comment on everything else, too.

Google lawyers will undoubtedly argue that the company's behavior was within legal bounds.