Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor have voiced concerns that Google has discouraged its employees from speaking to the government about discrimination that may occur in the workplace. Google requires employees to sign very strict confidentiality agreements as a part of working for the tech giant.

The labor department has been auditing Google. Google is a federal contractor, and therefore must comply with equal opportunity laws. After the labor department did a standard preliminary inquiry, it found that women are paid less than men across the board. The labor department asked for additional information, but Google has been very slow or unwilling to hand over data on employee compensation.

The labor department sued Google in January for its refusal to hand over compensation data. Google alleged that the data requests were too broad and that they violated their employees’ privacy. A federal judge ruled that Google must hand over salary records and employee contact information to federal regulators, in order for the government to possibly interview those people. However, the government expects the next phase of the investigation to run into problems.

Labor officials are now concerned that employees may not be able to speak out about other issues, such as discrimination. During the course of the labor department’s investigation, many employees expressed concerns about whether they were permitted by Google to talk to the government, since the company’s privacy policy binds them to confidentiality. Google disputes that allegation, stating that they have made it clear that employees can talk freely about workplace matters to government officials without fear of repercussions.

It is common for high tech companies to have strict confidentiality rules in order to protect trade secrets. However, critics say that in some companies, the rules are so strict that they prevent employees from being able to voice concerns about discrimination or harassment, or other illegal behaviors.

Indeed, former insiders at Google paint a picture of a corporate culture that is paranoid, and that speaking out is shameful. Some say that there is a feeling that anyone who talks about the company will be discovered and fired. In its public statements, Google has criticized and discredited the labor department, which critics of the company say is another way of letting their employees know not to talk and that regulators should not be trusted.

In addition to the actions taken against Google by the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board filed a separate complaint against Google in April, alleging that the company’s confidentiality rules infringe on their employees’ rights. According to officials, Google has threatened to fire employees or to take legal action against them for engaging in some legally protected activities, such as speaking out about illegal conduct or dangerous products.

By law, employees have a right to equal pay regardless of gender, as well as to work in an environment free from discrimination or harassment based on certain characteristics. Employees who speak out about illegal activity are also protected, and cannot be fired or demoted for speaking up about their legal rights.

If you are a worker in the tech industry and you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment, you should speak with an attorney confidentially. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees should be judged and paid on the basis of merit, not because of gender, skin color, religion, or any similar characteristics.

Call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland-San Francisco employment discrimination attorney at 510-645-1000. She can help. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation on your case.

 

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