- The National Labor Relations Board is requiring Google to post a list of employee rights at its headquarters.
- The settlement bans Google from retaliating against or threatening employees.
- A Google spokesperson told CNBC, "there is absolutely no mention of political activity in the proposed settlement."
In Google's agreement with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board to allow greater debate and more open discussion on campus, the company said it will post a list of more than 20 employees' rights and protections at its offices.
The policies, including some that are new for the company, show Google must have clearer guidelines for employees, addressing a common complaint from former staffers who claimed management didn't adequately explain why there were terminated. One of the terms says Google is not allowed to interfere with employees' attempts to discuss workplace issues and topics like compensation.
Google reached the settlement with the NLRB on Thursday, but the filing wasn't made public until Friday. The company must post the list of policies at its headquarters in Mountain View, California, as well as its Nest Labs offices in Palo Alto. In settling, Google "does not admit that it has violated the National Labor Relations Act or any other law," the filing said.
The agreement comes after former Google employee Kevin Cernekee filed a complaint last year, alleging the company restricted free speech and fired him for expressing conservative views. Google claims that Cernekee was fired for violating multiple policies, including using a personal device to download company documents. Last month, Google issued revised community guidelines, discouraging employees from engaging in a "raging debate over politics or the latest news story" and to avoid conversations that are generally disruptive.
The settlement is just between Google and the NLRB, meaning Cernekee could appeal the decision. Cernekee didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of the arrangement, Google is required to let employees speak with the media about their employment without getting permission, which marks a change for a company that has exercised tight restrictions over conversations with the press.
The company also has to say that it will comply with federal law, allowing employees to form, join or assist a union as well as "act together with other employees" for their "benefit and protection." Former employees have claimed that they faced retaliation for speaking out about workforce issues, including organizing the companywide walkout last year to protest Google's handling of sexual harassment.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement on Friday that it has agreed to a proposed settlement with the NLRB about Cernekee's complaint, but the company is going out of its way to say that it's not referencing political discourse in the new policies.
"There is absolutely no mention of political activity in the proposed settlement, and the updates we made to our Community Guidelines are completely unrelated and unaffected," the spokesperson told CNBC.
Here's what Google agreed to print and post at its offices:
FEDERAL LAW GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO:
- Form, join, or assist a union;
- Choose a representative to bargain with us on your behalf;
- Act together with other employees for your benefit and protection;
- Choose not to engage in any of these protected activities.
WE WILL NOT do anything to prevent you from exercising the above rights.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to discuss wages, hours, and working conditions with other employees, the press/media, and other third parties, and WE WILL NOT do anything to interfere with your exercise of those rights.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to freely bring workplace diversity issues and requests to clarify permissible workplace behavior to us on behalf of yourself and other employees and WE WILL NOT do anything to interfere with your exercise of that right.
WE WILL NOT threaten employees because they presented workplace diversity issues to us and requested clarifications of permissible workplace behavior.
WE WILL NOT reprimand, discipline, or issue a final written warning to you because you exercise your right to bring to us, on behalf of yourself and other employees, issues and complaints regarding your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
WE WILL NOT make it appear to you that we are watching out for your protected concerted activities or ask that you report other employees who are engaging in protected concerted activity regarding their wages, hours, and working conditions.
WE WILL NOT threaten you with the loss of your job or other retaliation if you engage in protected activity with other employees regarding your wages, hours, and working conditions.
WE WILL NOT prohibit you from discussing or sharing information relating to your performance, salaries, benefits, discipline, training, or any other terms and conditions of your employment and WE HAVE rescinded any such rules from our Data Classification Guidelines and related Data Security Policy effective November 2016.
WE WILL NOT maintain rules that define "confidential information" to include employee information about wages and terms and conditions of employment and WE HAVE rescinded sections of our Data Security Policy and our Data Classification Guidelines that arguably used such a definition of "confidential information" effective November 2016.
WE WILL NOT prohibit you from talking to the press/media about your terms and conditions of employment or require you to obtain prior approval before speaking with the press/media and WE HAVE rescinded any such rules in our Appropriate Conduct Policy, the "Interacting with the Press" provision in the Employee Communications Policy, and the "Outside Communication and
Research" provision in the Google Code of Conduct effective September 2016, December 2016, and April 2017, respectively.
WE WILL remove from our files all references to the final written warning issued to the Charging Party on August 19, 2015, and WE WILL notify him in writing that this has been done and that the final written warning will not be used against him in any way.
WE HAVE notified you that we have rescinded the rules described above.
WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner interfere with your rights under Section 7 of the Act.