“We will not tolerate it” | Google fires 28 employees for protest against Israel contract - sacked staffers claim terminations are “illegal” retaliation

Google fires 28 employees for protest against Israel contract - sacked staffers claim terminations are “illegal” retaliation

Google has fired 28 employees for participating in a protest against the company’s “Project Nimbus” contract with the Israeli government – but those terminated are claiming unfair retaliation.

The workers were among those who entered the tech giant’s offices in New York and Sunnyvale, California, and took part in a 10-hour sit-in.

In a companywide memo, Google’s Vice President of Security, Chris Rackow, informed all Googlers that those it has currently identified to be involved have been sacked after earlier freezing their access to internal systems.

“Following investigation, today we terminated the employment of twenty-eight employees found to be involved,” the memo says. “They took over office spaces, defaced our property, and physically impeded the work of other Googlers. Their behavior was unacceptable, extremely disruptive, and made co-workers feel threatened.”

The workers were tied to  a group called “No Tech For Apartheid,” which ran a wider protest called “No Tech for Genocide Day of Action.”

The staffers, having occupied Google office space including that of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, were demanding their employer pull out of a $1.2 billion contract in which Google provides cloud-computing and AI services to the Israeli government and military.

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Law enforcement gave the protestors several warnings to end their protest before being forcibly removed.

According to the NYPD, around 50 people participated in the New York protest with four arrests made for trespassing, and per the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, around 80 protesters took part in California’s sit-in with five arrested.

“Behavior like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it,” Rackow said in the memo, stating that the behavior of those involved violated Google’s code of conduct and policies on harassment, discrimination, retaliation, standards of conduct, and workplace concerns.

“Google takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior – up to and including termination.”

Terminated Google employees claim firings were "illegal" and "flagrant" retaliation

In a statement from No Tech for Apartheid, the 28 workers hit back at their former employer, saying that Google “indiscriminately fired over two dozen workers” including some who allegedly did not take part in either protest.

The group described the terminations as a “flagrant act of retaliation,” and described them as “illegal.”

“In the three years that we have been organizing against Project Nimbus, we have yet to hear from a single executive about our concerns,” the statement says. “Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor. These firings were clearly retaliatory.”

No Tech for Apartheid says Google’s claims of defaced property and colleague disruption are false, and that the peaceful sit-in did not threaten any workers.

But Rackow’s memo suggests there may be further terminations as the investigation progresses, noting Google will “continue to investigate and take action as needed.”

He also issues a further warning to employees at Google planning further protests: “If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again.”

However, the group says Google’s actions have only spurred them on. “These mass, illegal firings will not stop us. On the contrary, they only serve as further fuel for the growth of this movement.”

Ongoing protests and workplace behavior a challenge for Google’s HR leadership

Google has struggled to manage political flare-ups relating to Israel and Palestine.

Earlier in April, it scaled back features on Memegen, an internal messaging board, after posts about the war in Gaza turned into angry debates, and in March fired an employee for shouting “I refuse to build technology that powers genocide or surveillance” at a conference in New York.

Google plans to tackle this trend of protest by asking its leaders to remind employees about what the company deems acceptable behavior. “You should expect to hear more from leaders about standards of behavior and discourse in the workplace,” Rackow’s memo concludes.

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