“Don’t be evil” may be Google’s corporate motto, but one of its product managers doesn’t believe it’s practicing what it preaches. The employee in question filed a lawsuit against the company earlier this week, alleging that it runs an “internal spying program” and its confidentiality policies are a violation of California labor laws.
The Information reports that the suit was filed on Tuesday in California Superior Court in San Francisco by the anonymous worker, identified only as “John Doe.” He claims Google personnel are prohibited from talking internally about any illegal conduct they may have witnessed or “dangerous product defects,” so it can’t be used against the company in legal discovery.
Doe also alleges that the policies stops whistleblowing by prohibiting employees from speaking to reporters or government officials. He says they can’t even talk to spouses or friends about whether their boss could do a better job. Additionally, the company won’t allow employees to discuss pay and the Google work experience with potential new employers.
The lawsuit states that Google encourages people to spy on each other through a program called “Stop Leaks,” which advises employees to report co-workers who they believe are acting in a suspicious manner, such as asking detailed questions about work projects.
Bizarrely, another part of the suit claims Google prevents employees from writing works of creative fiction about working for a large Silicon Valley company without its prior approval.
The Information estimates that if Google is found guilty of violating the state’s labor laws, it could face fines totaling as much as $3.8 billion. A company spokesman called the allegations “baseless,” adding that the lawsuit is without merit.
“We're very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees details of product launches and confidential business information,” he said in a statement. “Transparency is a huge part of our culture. Our employee confidentiality requirements are designed to protect proprietary business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and conditions of employment, or workplace concerns."