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Queer former Google employees give damning indictment of tech giant after being fired at Thanksgiving

Lily Wakefield December 4, 2019
LGBT+ Google employees

The former Google employees are planning to file federal charges against the tech giant. (AMY OSBORNE/AFP via Getty Images)

Three LGBT+ workers who were fired by Google during Thanksgiving week are alleging that they were dismissed by the tech giant because of their employee activism, and plan to file federal charges.

Laurence Berland, Sophie Waldman and Rebecca Rivers, who all identify as LGBT+, were fired duing the same week, along with another employee, Paul Duke, who is not LGBT+.

Google told its employees that the reason for firing the four workers was “clear and repeated violations of our data security policies”.

But the former Googlers, according to The Guardian, deny any wrongdoing and are alleging their dismissal was to send a message to stop workers organising and employee activism, which they say violates federal labour laws.

Waldman, who used to be Google software engineer, told the newspaper: “Google fired us not just to target us, but to send a message to other employees in the company.”

Berland added: “It’s not about us, but intimidating everyone else. They want us afraid, they want us resigned, and they want us cynical.”

Some of the group’s activism included using employee resource groups (ERGs) for LGBT+ employees to push for changes like equal benefits for same-sex partnerships.

Waldman said: “From the beginning, queer and trans people at Google have banded together to make sure we have great benefits and a strong community.

“A lot of us feel very directly that it’s us and people like us that are on the line [when it comes to the company’s ethical decisions]… Google is a lovely place to work if you are transgender and don’t care about what is going on in the world.”

Rivers said she had been involved in protests against the tech giant’s employment of Kay Coles James, who has an anti-trans record, to its AI Ethics Council.

She alleges that when she was suspended, before being fired, Google wiped her personal phone, meaning she lost pictures documenting her gender transition.

The group say that workers at the company are calling for a union, when just last month the New York Times reported that Google had “hired an anti-union consulting firm to advise management as it deals with widespread worker unrest”.

In a statement to CNN, a Google spokesperson maintained: “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.”

More: employee activism, federal labor law, Google, LGBT workers, tech giant, technology, Union

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