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posted by martyb on Thursday December 02 2021, @12:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the chaotic-neutral dept.

Lawsuit: Google employees were fired for upholding “Don’t be evil” code:

Three former Google software engineers who sued the company yesterday claim they were fired for following Google's famous "Don't be evil" mantra.

"Google terminated each plaintiffs' employment with it for adhering to the directive 'Don't be evil' and calling out activity by Google that they each believed betrayed that directive," according to the complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman, and Paul Duke. The ex-employees say Google falsely blamed them for a data leak after they circulated an internal petition.

The lawsuit notes that the Google Code of Conduct "that each full-time Google employee is required to sign as a condition of employment" specifically instructs them not to be evil. The ex-employees say they tried to uphold the "Don't be evil" policy in August 2019 by circulating a petition "requesting that Google affirm that it would not collaborate with CBP [US Customs and Border Protection] or ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] with respect to enforcement of the Trump border control policies."

"[E]ach plaintiff protested Google's engagement in supporting BCP policies that resulted in separation of families and 'caging' of immigrants who were seeking asylum in the United States," the complaint said.

Google's firings of Rivers, Waldman, and Duke are also part of an ongoing case in which the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google.

Previously:
(2018-10-13) Google Leak: The Good Censor
(2018-09-14) "Senior Google Scientist" Resigns over Chinese Search Engine Censorship Project
(2018-05-19) "Don't be Evil" Disappearing From Google's Code of Conduct


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02 2021, @01:15PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02 2021, @01:15PM (#1201464)

    Their argument is precisely that they were, in actual fact, employed with compensation for the purpose of "do[ing] no evil", among other employment duties assigned them.

    Your defense would hold water in just about any other company, but Google put it in writing as a term of their employment, allegedly. Which means your comment is pointless.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02 2021, @03:08PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02 2021, @03:08PM (#1201514)

    This being evil is pretty questionable and ultimately, I think they're going to have a hard time making their case that participating in this was evil. If we were taking the migrants and running them through a meat grinder to produce dog food or fertilizer, that would be different. I don't see anything mentioned that is clearly evil to a reasonable observer. But, who knows, maybe they will be able to make and prove a case.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02 2021, @03:25PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02 2021, @03:25PM (#1201519)

      Yeah, I personally don't think they have a leg to stand on. But, they appear to be technically correct in being employed for that stated purpose.

      It's vaguely hilarious what companies will put in writing--unenforceable, outright illegal, or otherwise. I worked for a company that had an express written policy of illegally punishing the use of sick time (against state law) to the extent that they had a points system and kept records of every crime they commited.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03 2021, @10:57AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03 2021, @10:57AM (#1201791)

      I think they're going to have a hard time making their case that participating in this was evil

      No, they won't. If Google really put "don't be evil" in their personnel handbook, employee guides or even the employee contract, it is up to that same text to explicitly define that term. If the term is left undefined, the judge is going to side with the first-party interpretation of the term, and first-party here is the employee. not the employer.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03 2021, @11:40AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03 2021, @11:40AM (#1201794)
        +1 insightful into contract law. Hadn't even thought of that caveat.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 04 2021, @03:59AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 04 2021, @03:59AM (#1202043)

        Yes, but the signing party doesn't have unlimited leeway to interpret the contract terms. Yes, they do get a lot of it if the terms aren't defined, but this would be a significant stretch and would lead to issues with other people interpreting the same language the other way. The language would still revert to something resembling customary usage of the term. So, in all likelihood they wouldn't just get to define these specific things as being evil, that's likely a stretch too far. They might get away with it, but just because something isn't defined in the contract doesn't grant the non-drafting party unlimited ability to define terms.