Google Deals With Outspoken Employee

Four former Google employees who helped organize a petition against the company from working with immigration agencies have spoken out about being fired, calling this an attack on worker activism.

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Rebecca Rivers, who first tweeted about being discharged, took part in a protest with more than 100 people outside Google offices in San Francisco, where fellow employees asked that she be allowed to return to work.

Rivers, a software engineer who worked at Google offices in Boulder, Colorado, was instrumental in the creation and circulation of a petition amongst employees that called for the company to not go ahead with contracts with federal agencies. This includes agencies that have been criticized for their treatment of asylum seekers and those putting children in cages, like Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), both part of the US Department of Homeland Security.

"Google explicitly encourages us to pursue exactly these goals," the organizers shared in a Medium post. "The company's code of conduct states unequivocally: 'don't be evil, and if you see something that you think isn't right — speak up!' And we did."

The company alleges that Rivers, as well as Laurence Berland, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke, violated company policies by accessing sensitive internal documents and monitoring employees' calendar events. But Rivers and Berland have objected to those claims, saying the documents in question were not sensitive and that monitoring public calendar events does not break any corporate rules.

In the past two years, Google has garnered criticism from its employees about ethical concerns regarding sexual harassment and government contracts. Leaders of the Google walkout in 2018 against sexual harassment, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, stated that the company pushed them out because of their organizing. Google also came under fire for hiring former US Department of Homeland Security official, Miles Taylor, who was instrumental in President Trump's Muslim ban and family separation policy.

"Google workers are increasingly aware of the power they have," Berland told The New York Times. "They're going to continue to exercise that power, and in the end, they're going to prevail."