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Google Government Orders: Let the staff speak



Federal regulators have ordered Google to reassure employees that they are allowed to speak on political and workplace issues, people familiar with the matter say, as part of a deal with official complaints that the search giant punishes those who they do just that. [19659002] The move from the National Labor Council offers Google an escape from the thorny number that has turned the business in recent years. Although Google executives have long boasted of having a workplace culture created to encourage open debate, current and former employees across the political spectrum complain that they have retaliated against raising concerns about equality and freedom of expression.

The NLRB settlement comes as a response to a pair of complaints about Google's reaction to a workplace disagreement. The agreement instructs Google to inform current employees that they are free to speak to the media ̵

1; without seeking higher-level permission from Google – on topics such as diversity and workplace compensation, whether Google views these topics as inappropriate for the workplace [19659003] The agreement was approved by the agency's director this week, according to document. It is scheduled to enter into force after a period of appeal.

NLRB action is Google's second official reminder of the week to stay within the law. Last week, the YouTube unit investigated alleged violations of the $ 170 million fine for children with privacy and reassurances from regulators not to track the internet activity of children under the age of 13.

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is also in the early days of separate investigations by the Department of Justice and a group of attorneys representing almost every state in its dominant online advertising platform. [19659004] Private employers have the ability to restrict specific speech to their jobs, and late last month, Google moved to discuss office debates among its more than 100,000 full-time employees, adding new safeguards to discuss non-work topics and encouragement to avoid potentially disturbing conversations. Among the new rules: "Discussions that make other Google feel out of place have no place here."

Federal law protects activities such as creating an alliance and talks to improve pay, among other types of behavior.

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However, current and former employees say that Google has gone too far or sometimes not enough to protect their speech in the workplace. The NRDB settlement states that Google must actively notify employees that the search giant is killing rules that force employees to share certain confidential information with each other or with the media. The agreement does not specify exactly what these rules cover.

Officers on the right claim that expressing their beliefs can make them leprosy among Google executives, while left-wingers are forced to protest YouTube's evolving hate speech policies, among other issues.

Some of the more outspoken employees were later offered pay packages to leave the company, these employees say.

One complainant, former Google engineer Kevin Czernecki, stated that he was fired for expressing unpopular political beliefs directed at his right-wing colleagues in the company's free internal message boards. Google says it has been fired for misusing business equipment. President Trump has tweeted support for Mr Czernecki after The Wall Street Journal wrote about a former bias officer's allegations last month.

Google declined to comment this week on the action of the NLRB or the case of Mr Cernekee.

The other complainant is a current Google employee whose identity remains private. He claims he was punished for posting sweet reviews on a senior Google executive at

Facebook

Settling the NLRB is a win for Google, as long as it does not formally decide whether Google is wrong. Mr Cernekee demanded that he be reinstated, with a return payment; it will not receive either under settlement.

The NLRB also ordered Google to withdraw Mr. Cherneki's final warning letter saying that he had violated the "Respect one another" section of the company code of conduct in a five-comment message to

Mr Cernekee and the second applicant objected in writing to the agreement, stating that they deserved a hearing in order to express their views.

Write to Rob Copeland at rob.copeland@wsj.com

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