Federal regulators have ordered Google to reassure employees that they are allowed to comment on political issues and jobs, say people familiar with the matter, as part of a settlement with formal complaints that the search giant is punishing those who do just that.  The move from the National Labor Relations Board offers Google an escape hatch from a thorny issue that has roasted the business in recent years. Although Google executives have long boasted of having a workplace culture designed to encourage open debate, current and past employees across the political spectrum have complained that they were retaliated for raising concerns about equality and freedom of expression.
NLRB's settlement comes in response to a couple of complaints about Google's reaction to workplace dissent. The settlement requires Google to inform current employees that they are free to talk to the media ̵
The settlement was approved by a city council director this week, according to a document. It is planned to take effect after an appeal period.
The NLRB action is Google's second formal reminder in a week of staying within the law. Last week, Google's YouTube unit ruled an investigation into alleged privacy violations with a $ 170 million fine and a warning from regulators not to track internet activity for children under 13.
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Private employers have the option of restricting certain speech in their workplaces, and late last month Google moved to cut office debates among the more than 100,000 full-time employees, adding new railings for discussions on issues without work and encouragement to Avoid potentially disruptive calls. Among the new rules: "Discussions that make other Googlers feel like they don't belong have no place here."
Federal law protects activities such as forming a union and talks about improving pay, among other types of behavior.
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Still, current and former employees have said that Google has overreacted, or at times did not do enough to protect their speech in the workplace. The NLRB settlement states that Google must actively notify employees that the search giant killed rules stating that employees share certain confidential information with each other, or with the media. The settlement does not express exactly what these rules covered.
Right-leaning employees say that expressing their beliefs can make them leprosy among Google hires, while left-wing employees have been stymied in an attempt to protest YouTube's evolving hate speech policies, among other issues.
Some of the more outspoken employees were later offered pay packages to leave the company, these employees say.
A complainant, ex-Google engineer Kevin Cernekee, has said he was fired for expressing unpopular high-security political beliefs toward employees on the company's internal freewheeling internal boards. Google says he was fired for misusing business equipment. President Trump tweeted support for Mr. Cernekee after The Wall Street Journal wrote about the former employee's bias allegations last month.
Google declined to comment this week on the NLRB action or Mr. Cerneke's case.
The second complainant is a current Google employee whose identity remains private. He claims he was punished for posting flattering opinions on a high-level Google top executive
NLRB's settlement is a victory for Google in that it makes no formal decision on whether Google was wrong. Mr. Cernekee had asked to be reinstated with a refund; he will not receive neither under the settlement conditions.
The NLRB also orders Google to withdraw Mr. Cernekee's final warning letter, stating that he had violated the "Respect Each Other" section of the company's code of conduct in five comments to the message board.
Attorneys for Mr. Cernekee and the other complainant have objected in writing to the settlement, saying that they deserve a hearing to make their views known.
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