SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A group of former Google employees sued the Alphabet Inc unit on Monday alleging that it breached their employment contracts by not honoring its famous motto “don’t be evil.”
In the lawsuit filed in California state court in Santa Clara county, former Google employees Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke alleged that they were fired two years ago for fulfilling their contractual obligation to speak up if they saw Google violating its “don’t be evil” pledge.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has said before that the employees violated data security policies.
Their firings also have led to an ongoing National Labor Relations Board trial over whether the company engaged in unfair practices to stem growing worker organizing. Rank-and-file engineers and others working at tech companies in recent years have sought greater say over policies and projects. Management has pushed back, seeking to maintain control.
The three former Google software engineers had raised concerns at town halls and other forums inside Google about the company potentially selling cloud technology to U.S. immigration authorities, which at the time were engaging in detention tactics considered inhumane by rights activists, including separating migrant children from their families.
The workers considered the potential immigration work “evil” under Google’s policies, which call for “acting honorably and treating each other with respect” and engaging in “the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct,” according to the lawsuit. The company’s code of conduct says workers who think the company may be falling short of its commitment should not stay silent, the lawsuit said.
The workers are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
Google has promoted “don’t be evil” as a core value for over 20 years, including when it went public in 2004.
(Reporting by Julia Love; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Richard Chang)