A California Superior Court has ruled against Google in what could be a landmark case for the tech sector. The judge said that banning employees from discussing their job with prospective employers is equivalent to a non-compete clause, which is illegal in California.
According to a report by The Washington Post, the judge found that Google’s confidentiality (NDA) agreements were a violation of the state’s labor laws. Google hasn’t commented on this new ruling. But the company convinced a previous court to throw out most of the workers’ claims. The tech giant held at the time that federal laws override any state legislation on this issue.
Shortly after, an appeals court overturned the lower court’s decision. The court pointed out that state laws protect free speech, including discussing work experiences. It’s important to note that the latest ruling does not allow Google employees to share trade secrets. But discussing work experience outside of the company would no longer be a challenge.
If upheld, this ruling could have significant consequences across Silicon Valley
As Engadget points out, the ruling could enable employees to switch companies without worrying about pricey and time-consuming lawsuits. While the matter is far from over, it could have a ripple effect across the tech industry, particularly for Silicon Valley corporations. It’s no secret that several companies have similar gag orders that restrict employees from leaving their positions. But if the recent ruling is upheld, companies would have no option but to make some big changes.
The welfare of workers is a hot-button issue for companies like Google. Recently unearthed documents showed that the company was carrying out a top-secret project called Project Vivian to discourage employees from unionizing. A report said that the infamous anti-union firm, IRI Consultants was also part of Project Vivian.
Moreover, Google’s director of employment law, Michael Pfyl, hoped that the suggestions from IRI Consultants would let the company “engage employees more positively and convince them that unions suck.”
Google has been accused of illegally tracking employees to learn about attributes like their financial position, ethnicity, and work-related stances. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said they’re awaiting 180 documents from Google on these matters. However, the company has cited attorney-client privilege for not offering the required documents.