Doe v. Google, Inc.Annotate this Case
The defendants require their employees to comply with various confidentiality policies. Current and former employees sued under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) (Lab. Code, 2698), alleging the employers’ confidentiality policies restricted their employees’ speech in violation of California law. The claims fall into three subcategories; restraints of competition, whistleblowing, and freedom of speech. The trial court dismissed, concluding the claims were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151. In a settlement in a separate NLRB proceeding, defendant Google agreed to post a notice informing employees that they had the right “to discuss wages, hours, and working conditions,” and that “Google would “NOT prohibit [employees] from discussing or sharing information relating to [their] performance, salaries, benefits, discipline, training, or any other terms and conditions of employment.”
The court of appeal reversed. Although many of the’ claims relate to conduct that is arguably within the scope of the NLRA, the claims fall within the local interest exception to preemption. The complaint does not mention union organizing or other concerted activity; it alleges violations of state law that can be proven without considering whether the actions violated the NLRA. The statutes protecting competition, whistleblowing, and free speech fit comfortably within California’s historic police powers and address conduct affecting individual employees, as distinct from the NLRA’s focus on concerted activity. This state-court action poses no threat to the NLRA’s exercise of its own jurisdiction.