“A California judge ruled this week that the confidentiality agreements Google requires its employees to sign are too broad and break the state’s labor laws,” reports the Washington Post, calling it “a decision that could make it easier for workers at famously secret Big Tech firms to speak openly about their companies.”
A Google employee identified as John Doe argued that the broad nondisclosure agreement the company asked him to sign barred him from speaking about his job to other potential employers, amounting to a non-compete clause, which are illegal in California. In a Thursday ruling in California Superior Court, a judge agreed with the employee, while declining to make a judgment on other allegations that Google’s agreements blocked whistleblowing and sharing information about wages with other workers.
The ruling marks the latest victory for labor advocates who have sought to force Big Tech companies to relax the stringent confidentiality policies that compel employees to stay quiet about every aspect of their jobs, even after they quit….
The decision isn’t final and could still be appealed by Google…. If Google doesn’t appeal, or loses the appeal, it could have a real impact on how much power companies hold over employees, said Ramsey Hanafi, a partner with QH Law in San Francisco. “It would mean most of these Big Tech companies would have to rewrite their agreements,” Hanafi said. “They all have this broad language that employees can’t say anything about anything about their old companies….”
In its opinion, the California Courts of Appeal affirmed the importance of the state’s labor laws that go further than federal laws in protecting employees’ rights to free speech. Those laws give workers in California the right to “speak as they choose about their work lives,” the court wrote. “In sum, these statutes establish as a minimum employment standard an employee anti-gag rule….”
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2016, the article points out, and has been responsible for exposing several internal Google documents (including one detailing a program where employees can report suspected leakers of Google information).