Google could be facing a fine up to $4bn after being sued for allegedly not allowing employees to post opinions about the company or write novels without getting their employer to sign off on the final draft.
The tech company is being sued under Californian labour laws over its strict internal confidentiality rules, which allegedly prevent employees from exercising their legal rights to discuss violations inside the company, workplace conditions and wages, reported The Guardian.
According to the lawsuit one such policy prohibits employees from writing creative fiction. “Among other things, Google’s Employee Communication Policy prohibits employees from writing ‘a novel about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley’ unless Google gives prior approval to both the book idea and the final draft,” it says.
Employees are also not allowed to communicate whether they think the company is acting illegally, according to the lawsuit.
The case is being brought by an individual employee under a Californian act that allows employees to sue on behalf of co-workers.
Its main complaint is that Google’s confidentiality policies prevent employees from exercising speech rights which are protected, both constitutionally and in federal and state law.
If the employee wins, the state gets 75% of the penalty, while the remaining payout would be split among Google’s employees, with the maximum fine in Google’s case is almost $4bn.
Google said the suit was “baseless”.
“We’re very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees details of product launches and confidential business information," it 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.”