Brown Leads Democrats in Demanding Google End Misuse of Independent Contractors, Temporary Workers

Recent New York Times Report Found Google Has More Temporary and Contract Workers than Full-time Employees; Misclassification Leaves Workers Vulnerable to Mistreatment, Lower Pay & More; Senator is Demanding Google End Abuses of Worker Classifications and Treat All Workers Equally

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led a group of his Democratic colleagues last week in demanding answers from Google, after a New York Times report found Google has more temporary and contract workers than full-time employees. The report also found that temporary and contract workers often remain in those positions for extended periods of time. Temporary workers and independent contractors are by definition intended for short-term or work outside the scope of business operations, but at Google frequently perform the same work as full-time employees for lower pay and benefits. Brown is urging Google to end its abuses of worker classifications and treat all workers equally. 

Brown led this letter with Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“Google is valued at more than $100 billion, and your personal compensation topped $400 million in 2018, which makes it that much more difficult to stomach the mistreatment of these workers,” the Senators wrote in their letter. “It is not enough to insist that contracting and staffing companies pay at least $15 an hour and provide health care and paid parental leave because that standard is well below that set for Google’s full-time employees. Google should convert contractors and temporary workers to full-time employees.”

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is also calling on Google to end its abuses of worker classifications and treat all workers fairly.

“Google is one of a number of major companies that engages in abusive subcontracting practices, with second-class treatment of more than half of its workforce,” said Rebecca Smith, Director of Work Structures at the National Employment Law Project. “Temp jobs should be just that – ‘temporary’ -- used for short-term special projects, not as a long-term business model that permanently relegates ‘temp’ workers to underpaid, dehumanizing and dead end jobs, all in the name of increasing profits.”

Brown has long fought to give workers more power in the workplace, introducing a plan in 2017 to restore the value of work that included fighting back against employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and fair wages by strengthening IRS enforcement authority. Read more about Brown’s plan HERE.

A copy of Brown’s letter can be found below and HERE. 

July 25, 2019

Sundar Pichai

CEO

Google, LLC

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway

Mountain View, CA 94043

 

Dear Mr. Pichai:

We are writing to express objection to Google’s misuse of independent contractors and temporary workers.  Recent reporting by the New York Times[1] indicates that Google has more temporary and contract workers than full-time employees, and that workers in those categories remain in them long-term, even if the work they are doing is permanent and equal to that of directly employed workers.  Temporary workers and independent contractors are by definition intended for short-term and non-core work, and we urge Google to end any abuse of these worker classifications and treat all Google workers equally. 

Google’s business model relies heavily on workers who are not employed directly by your company.  According to the Times, Google employs 102,000 full-time employees and 121,000 temporary and contract workers.  The differences between the categories of workers appears to be in name only.  In at least some cases, your company determines where these individuals work, the hours they work, the tasks they perform, and whether or not they should continue to work on Google contracts.  In the case of temporary workers, they are commonly working on permanent projects alongside full-time Google employees for years and typically at much lower pay than their full-time employee counterparts.  Google contractors and temporary workers also have fewer opportunities for professional advancement and less leverage in the workplace because they are trying to become full-time employees.  That leaves them vulnerable to Google management demands, including requests not to report overtime or inappropriate advances.  These are abuses of the independent contractor and temporary worker classifications.

Google is valued at more than $100 billion, and your personal compensation topped $400 million in 2018, which makes it that much more difficult to stomach the mistreatment of these workers.   It is not enough to insist that contracting and staffing companies pay at least $15 an hour and provide health care and paid parental leave because that standard is well below that set for Google’s full-time employees.  Google should convert contractors and temporary workers to full-time employees.

Specifically, we urge Google to commit to taking immediate action to end these anti-worker practices and adopt the following company policies:

  • Automatic transition from temporary worker to permanent full-time Google employee after six months;
  • Prohibition of financial disincentives – including “conversion fees” stipulated by staffing agencies in contracts with Google – for transitioning a temporary worker to permanent Google employee.
  • Wage and benefit parity for independent contractors, temporary workers and permanent full-time employees;
  • Disclosure to temporary workers at the start of their work on a Google contract about their status and when they can expect to transition to permanent full-time employee status;
  • Limitations on the use of independent contractors and temporary workers to temporary or non-core work that is not already performed by full-time employees;
  • Prohibition of mandatory nondisclosure agreements about the terms and conditions of employment, including in temporary workers’ contracts with their staffing agencies;
  • Elimination of all non-compete clauses in all employment contracts, including in temporary workers’ contracts with their staffing agencies; and
  • Google acceptance of liability for any workplace violations that occur with temporary workers or independent contractors. 

Making these changes to your company’s employment practices will ensure equal treatment of all Google workers and put an end to the two-tier employment structure you have perpetuated.  In addition, it will ensure the company’s use of temporary workers and independent contractors is consistent with the intent of those worker classifications.  Finally, adopting these policies will extend the economic security of Google employment to all individuals who contribute to your company’s success.  We request that you respond to this letter by August 9, 2019, to identify the ways in which your company will make the employment policy changes outlined above. 

We look forward to working together to stop corporate anti-worker practices and grow the middle class.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Bernie Sanders (D-VT)

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Ed Markey (D-MA)

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Kamala Harris (D-CA).

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[1] Wakabayashi, D. (2019, May 28).  Google’s Shadow Work Force: Temps Who Outnumber Full-Time Employees.  The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/technology/google-temp-workers.html