Karn worked at Google’s data center for just nine days on Tuesday before she was allegedly fired for “mishandling.”
The temporary worker is now at the center of a new complaint to the National Labor Relations Board against her employer, Modis, and Google Alphabet, which marks yet another workplace dispute for the world’s third-largest company by market value.
Karn, 29, worked on a hardware maintenance site for Google in South Carolina. Google fulfills many of these roles with contracting firms such as Modi.
During her second week of work, Karn said she attended a regular meeting where managers discussed upcoming schedules. She was told that employees working on holiday shifts were entitled to double wages, but only if they had worked there for at least six months before. Karne, who was unaware of this policy, spoke out about it. “I basically said,“ This [expletive]”- she recalled.
Later that evening, she received an email from a Modis manager calling her behavior at the meeting “inappropriate and inappropriate,” according to a copy of the message viewed by Bloomberg News. She was fired.
Karn immediately contacted the Alphabet Workers Union, a workers’ advocacy group. In March, Google settled another labor complaint from AWU concerning the same South Carolina facility and agreed not to silence workers when discussing wages. Shannon Waite, a Modis employee who was fired in this case, was reinstated.
In a new complaint from the AWU, the labor group said Karn was giving a legally protected speech during the November meeting.
Representatives from Modis and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
AWU, a subsidiary of America’s communications workers, has focused on the tech giant’s vast contract workforce. These employees usually earn much less and have fewer benefits than the direct Google personnel. Karn said she was paid $ 16.50 an hour for her Modis role, as well as a $ 200 bonus given during the pandemic when data center staff were asked to come regularly.
People like Karn are essentially Google’s core employees, said Rachel Sawyer, an AWU steward. “If something happens to the data center, Google won’t be able to work at all,” she said.
AWU tapped in in recent weeks after a recruiting agency threatened to pay bonuses to data center workers who meet attendance requirements. As a result, Modis kept the payments for himself.
“I just want my job back,” said Karn, who recently moved from Michigan to take the role. “It seemed to me that the wind had disappeared from my sails.”
In 2020, the NLRB Republican majority at the time used the General Motors case to set a new precedent that makes it easier for companies to punish employees who say or do offensive things when they exercise their legal rights to protest working conditions. But Biden-appointed Labor Council General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has made it clear that she wants to pursue cases challenging the Trump-era precedent, and Democrats, who now have a majority in the NLRB, could use a case like Karn to reverse it.
Google is facing an additional NLRB lawsuit on behalf of the activist employees the company has fired. On Tuesday, a judge ordered Google to hand over documents on attempts to suppress unionization efforts.