Google employee sues company over “illegal confidentiality agreements”

22 Dec 2016


A Google Inc product manager has sued the company, accusing it of running an ''internal spying programme'' and forcing employees to ''illegal confidentiality agreements, policies, guidelines and practices'' barring them from sharing concerns with coworkers, shareholders or the press, in order to prevent leaks.

The class action suit filed by the employee, identified as 'John Doe', in the California state court in San Francisco on Tuesday, says Google's employment agreements are illegally broad and violate various state labour laws.

The lawsuit claims that Google's specious employment agreements expressly prohibit employees from reporting illegal conduct they may have witnessed or even bringing to light potentially dangerous product defects.

According to the lawsuit Google discourages whistle blowing activities by employees fearing that these might ultimately resurface during legal proceedings.

The plaintiff says the confidentiality agreements that all Google employees are required to sign essentially bar workers from saying anything about the company, even to each other.

The agreements define confidential information as ''without limitation, any information in any form that relates to Google or Google's business that is not generally known,'' according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the agreements violate state laws that provide that employers cannot bar workers from discussing their wages or disclosing information to government agencies.

A spokesperson for Mountain View, California-based Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, said in a statement that the claims were ''baseless,'' and that the agreements were designed to protect sensitive business information and not to bar employees from discussing working conditions.

''We're very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees details of product launches and confidential business information,'' the spokesperson said.

Google is facing similar claims from an unidentified employee in proceedings before the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, which recently struck down confidentiality agreements at T-Mobile USA Inc, DirectTV and some other companies.

It is, however, not known how a court allowed a plaintiff to proceed anonymously. The Google employee claims that being identified could harm his reputation at the company and his future job prospects.

The plaintiff in the case, Doe v Google Inc in the California Superior Court, San Francisco County, is seeking to represent all current workers (numbering about 65,000) and former Google employees who signed the agreements.'

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