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Google accused of 'unjustly retaliating' against employee who criticised Israel military contract

More than 500 Google employees have signed a petition supporting Ariel Koren, who claims she is being pushed out of her role for protesting an Israeli military contract
A sign in front of a building on the Google campus, on 31 January in Mountain View, California (AFP)

Google has been accused of "unjustly retaliating" against an employee who criticised Project Nimbus, a $1.2bn contract between Google, Amazon Web Services, and the Israeli military and government.

The LA Times reported on Tuesday that shortly after Ariel Koren helped draft a letter among Google and Amazon workers that said Project Nimbus would facilitate the surveillance of Palestinians, as well as assist the expansion of Israeli settlements, her boss suggested she move to Brazil or lose her position.

"It was just so outlandish. The whole thing was completely wild," Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education, told the LA Times. 

Koren has claimed that the move was an effort to essentially fire her, particularly because there are no in-person events planned in Sao Paulo. She said it was in retaliation both for Project Nimbus and for reporting a member of her team for alleged harassment and discrimination.

In her complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, she claims that days after the meeting Google told colleagues that she would no longer have a position on the team, despite not having made a decision about the move.

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When she asked about this, her manager allegedly said: “You mean you actually would consider moving to Sao Paulo?”

Earlier this week, more than 500 of her colleagues signed a petition accusing the Google leadership of "unjustly retaliating" against her.

"Sadly, Ariel's case is consistent with Google's dangerous track record of worker retaliation that has made mainstream headlines in the past few years - and specifically against those speaking out against contracts that enable state violence against marginalized people," the petition said, according to the LA Times.

"RIGHT after I helped organize against unethical contracts (& 2 days after returning from #disability leave), Google gave me 17 days to commit to moving to Sao Paulo—or else lose my job. Over 500 workers have petitioned, but @Google has yet to rescind the act of retaliation," Koren tweeted.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who represents Silicon Valley, wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai in December saying that "employees have a right to voice their objections about the work of their employer, without facing risk of retaliation".

Google has denied the allegations, with a company spokesperson saying: "We thoroughly investigated this employee's claims and found there was no retaliation."

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