Google banned employees from discussing politics at work, but the government now reportedly says that restricts free speech rights

GP: An employee passes the Google logo
An employee passes the Google logo.
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered Google to let employees openly debate political and workplace issues, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The action came as a result of federal regulators reaching a settlement on employee complaints that the company restricts free speech, the Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. The settlement, which was approved this week, ensures that Google will strike recently revised community guidelines that are meant to crack down on what employees can say inside the company.

Last month, Google released a new set of community guidelines that discourage employees from talking about politics on Google’s internal mailing lists in forums. The rules also bar employees from making statements that “insult, demean or humiliate” other employees or Google’s extended extended workforce.

Representatives from Google and the NLRB weren’t immediately available for comment.

One complaint was filed by ex-Google engineer Kevin Cernekee, who claims he was fired for expressing conservative views. Google says that Cernekee was fired for violating multiple company policies, including using a personal device to download company documents. In his complaint, Cernekee asked to be reinstated at the company, but the settlement terms don’t guarantee that, according to the Journal.

A second complaint was submitted by a current Google employee who claims he was punished over posting negative opinions about a top Google executive on Facebook, the Journal said.

Google has historically fostered a culture of free speech and debate inside the company, with employees often getting into heated conversations about political and social issues. This has led to extensive debates inside the company about what the limits of free speech should be. Many current and former Google employees have spoken out publicly about the issue.

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