Google's 'Thanksgiving Four' plan to file unfair labor practice charges with a federal agency

Key Points
  • The four former Google employees fired ahead of Thanksgiving said in a blog post Tuesday they plan to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming Google had unfair labor practices.
  • The group claim the company fired them for engaging in worker organizing efforts.
  • Google has previously said the employees were dismissed for accessing and sharing confidential documents and breaching security.
Aytac Unal | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Four former Google employees who were fired days before Thanksgiving plan to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, the group wrote Tuesday.

The former employees, dubbed the "Thanksgiving Four," announced their plans to file charges in a Medium post. Google has said it fired the employees for sharing confidential documents and breaching security. But the group disputes this claim, saying their dismissal was a form of retaliation for their organizing efforts.

In a memo to employees after the firings, Google said the dismissed workers had breached policies by "searching for, accessing and distributing business information outside the scope of their jobs — repeating this conduct even after they were met with and reminded about our data security policies."

In Tuesday's post, the dismissed employees say they were fired after engaging in labor organizing efforts. The firings followed a New York Times report that Google hired anti-union consulting firm IRI Consultants to advise its management.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said, "We dismissed four individuals who were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees' materials and work. No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company's activities."

Google already has come under scrutiny from the NLRB for its policies regarding employee activists. Once known for its unusually open workplace culture that welcomed activism, Google has more recently tried to rein in some of its standards to fit a more traditional corporate model. In August, Google revised its community guidelines to ban political discussions on internal mailing lists, among other restrictions.

The company ended up reaching a settlement with the NLRB over those policies, forcing Google to remind employees they are within their rights to debate political and workplace issues. Google said in September it would post a list of more than 20 employees' rights and protections at its offices as a result of the agreement. Among the protections, Google agreed to share that employees have the right to form or join a union under federal law and that the company would not retaliate against employees if they engaged in "protected activity" with other employees regarding working conditions and pay.

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