Google won't restrict employee speech over workplace issues

The move comes as the search giant reaches a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
Getty Images

Google on Thursday said it reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board, after complaints from workers who'd spoken out over workplace issues. 

The search giant said it would explain to its workers what protections their speech is afforded. 

"Under the settlement, we have agreed to post a notice to our employees reminding them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. "As a part of that notice, we will also remind employees of the changes we made to our workplace policies back in 2016 and 2017 that clarified those policies do not prevent employees from discussing workplace issues." 

The move comes as cultural tensions have roiled Google in recent months. One complaint to the NLRB was filed by Kevin Cernekee, a former employee who said he was fired from Google for his conservative viewpoints. The settlement with the NLRB doesn't cover Cernekee's discharge, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Another complaint was filed by a current Google worker, unnamed, who said he was punished for speaking out against a top executive on a Facebook page, according to The Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported news of the settlement

Though the agreement with the NLRB addresses speech about workplace issues, Google emphasized there's "absolutely no mention of political activity in the proposed settlement."

Last month, Google updated its policies to limit worker discussions of politics and other topics unrelated to work. The company spokeswoman said on Thursday that those new guidelines are completely unrelated to the settlement and unaffected by it.