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Google’s policies deter whistle-blowing, employee alleges in lawsuit

This  2013 photo shows Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. A Google Inc. employee has filed a lawsuit against the technology giant, alleging the company’s confidentiality policies illegally dissuade current and former workers from whistle-blowing. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
This 2013 photo shows Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. A Google Inc. employee has filed a lawsuit against the technology giant, alleging the company’s confidentiality policies illegally dissuade current and former workers from whistle-blowing. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

A Google Inc. employee has filed a lawsuit against the technology giant, alleging the company’s confidentiality policies illegally dissuade current and former workers from whistle-blowing.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a California Superior Court in San Francisco County by an anonymous San Francisco-based product manager.

In the lawsuit, he is described only as John Doe because he said publishing his name would further damage his reputation in the company and larger tech industry.

Doe alleges a Google official falsely blamed him for leaking company information to reporters to ensure other employees would follow confidentiality agreements. The Google official told thousands of employees Doe had been fired for the leaks, the lawsuit states.

Though Google did not identify Doe by name, he says in the lawsuit that “a number of Googlers concluded that Doe and the employee identified as the leaker were one and the same.”

The lawsuit alleges that Google has wide-ranging confidentiality agreements and employee communication policies that prevent employees from disclosing violations both internally and externally. According to the lawsuit, Google restricts what employees say, even in internal emails, advising employees not to say “I think we broke the law” or “I think we violated this contract.”

“The training program also advises employees that they should not be candid when speaking with Google’s attorneys about dangerous products or violations of the law,” the lawsuit said.

The policies, according to the lawsuit, go so far as to prevent employees from discussions with a spouse or friends “about whether they think their boss could do a better job,” talk of wages or even writing a novel about someone working at “a tech company in Silicon Valley” without prior approval from Google.

The Mountain View, California, company called the lawsuit “baseless,” saying the firm was committed to an “open internal culture.”

“Transparency is a huge part of our culture,” Google said in a statement. “Our employee confidentiality requirements are designed to protect proprietary business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and conditions of employment, or workplace concerns.”


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