Google will not be required to admit it did anything wrong in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) settlement over complaints the tech giant restricted employees' speech —- but Google does have to inform employees of their protected free speech rights.
The Wall Street Journal (paywalled link) reported the news first today, and says the NLRB agreement addresses complaints that Google reacted unfavorably to “workplace dissent.”
Google confirmed the settlement details to The New York Times, and then to other news organizations.
“We have agreed to post a notice to our employees reminding them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act,” a Google spokesperson told reporters.
“As a part of that notice, we will also remind employees of the changes we made to our workplace policies back in 2016 and 2017 that clarified those policies do not prevent employees from discussing workplace issues.”
The Journal writes that one of the complaints involves Kevin Cernekee, who alleged he was fired for his conservative political beliefs. (The Daily Caller later published posts where Cernekee suggested raising money for neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, something Cernekee claimed was unrelated to Spencer’s politics.) President Trump promoted Cernekee on Twitter after he appeared on Fox Business, raising Cernekee’s profile. A second complaint reportedly involved an employee who posted “unflattering opinions” about a Google executive on Facebook.
The Journal initially reported that the settlement covered talking about “political and workplace” issues. In a statement, Google partially denied that description. “There has been some misreporting this morning about Google’s workplace,” the spokesperson told The Verge. While she confirmed that Google had settled Cernekee’s complaint, “there is absolutely no mention of political activity in the proposed settlement.”
Apparently unrelated to this settlement, Google has been accused of retaliating against workplace activists like Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker, who helped organize a mass walkout to protest Google’s handling of sexual misconduct. And when Google updated some policies on employee conduct in August, critics argued that it could use the new rules to suppress protest over military or immigration agency contracts. Google said that these updates are “completely unrelated and unaffected” by the settlement.