Google employees will fill the Harry Bridge Plaza in front of the Ferry Building during a strike in San Francisco on Thursday, November 1, 2018. Eric Risberg / Hide AP captions
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Three former Google employees have sued the company, claiming that Google’s motto, “Don’t be evil,” corresponds to a contractual obligation violated by the tech giant.
According to the lawsuit, when the company hired three software engineers, Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman, and Paul Duke, they signed a code of conduct that included a “don’t be evil” clause.
When he organized Google employees for controversial projects, such as working at the US Customs and Border Protection during the Trio administration, he said he thought the trio was acting on that principle. Workers have circulated a petition asking Google to publicly promise not to work with CBP.
In November 2019, Google fired three workers and a fourth Lawrence Burland for “clear and repetitive violations” of the company’s data security policy. The four denied accessing and leaking confidential documents as part of their activities.
Rivers, Waldman, and Duke were allegedly retaliated in a lawsuit filed in the Santa Clara County Superior Court on Monday when they tried to pay attention to Google’s “doing evil,” resulting in financial damages. He insists that he should receive compensation.
It can be a difficult battle to convince the jury exactly what constitutes “evil.” However, plaintiff’s lawyer, Laurie Burgess, said the court should not go beyond what must be decided on a regular basis.
“There are all sorts of contractual terms that the jury needs to interpret.” Don’t be evil “isn’t” there “so much that it’s not enforceable,” she said. “It must make sense because Google’s contract tells employees that they may be fired because they didn’t follow the motto” Don’t be evil. ” ”
Google didn’t immediately return the request for comment.
The “don’t be evil” principle often stems from Google’s two early employees, Paul Buchheit and Amit Patel. According to the 2008 book Planet Google by Randall Stross, this phrase was written on all whiteboards of the company in the early days of the company.
“Even though it was officially described in Google as” you can make money without doing evil, “it became the only Google value that the average person is familiar with,” Stros wrote. rice field.
In 2018, there was a report suggesting that Google removed “don’t be evil” from its code of conduct. However, the updated version dated September 2020 shows that the phrase remains. It is unknown when the motto was reintroduced.
The proceedings took place during a surge in the labor movement at technology companies such as Apple Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon. Alphabet-owned Google Workers Group formed a minority union earlier this year on issues such as sexual harassment, Pentagon cooperation, and the treatment of significant contract workers.
The National Labor Relations Board is investigating the dismissal of three Google workers who filed a lawsuit on Monday. The board wrote in May that Google “definitely violated” federal labor law by “illegal dismissal” of Rivers, Duke and Waldman. The NLRB problem is awaiting final resolution.
Software engineers, meanwhile, say Google should be punished if it doesn’t follow its own moral norms.
“Google has found that’don’t be evil’is spending money and driving workers to organize,” former Google said in a statement on Monday. “Google has fired employees who keep their motto, rather than admitting that their stance has changed and lost the benefits that come with the company’s image.”
Editor’s Note: Google is one of NPR’s financial backers.
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