Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Google This

As a second tier employee few understand what that is like both emotionally and financially. I was an office temp for a large part of my work life and when young it suits but as one ages and seeks security it is tasking and not in a good way.

Olsten Temps and Kelly Girls were designed for women to fill office jobs and ultimately save company money by not being a full time employee.  Such employees are at 'will' and that means exempt from Unemployment, Health Care, Vacation,  Pension and Workman's Comp (again there is two tiers there as well) as well as  long term professional growth and security. This history is well behind much of the gig economy of today  and thanks to this we have graduated to a new level of white collar temps that Microsoft pushed forward and now all of the valley has graduated to employ the same tactics. 

Now as Google testified before Congress about their data collection practices their employment ones have also come to light.  Can you Google that? 



Revealed: Google's 'two-tier' workforce training document

Exclusive: internal document shows how Google employees are trained to treat temps, vendors and contractors

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
Guardian
Wed 12 Dec 2018

Google staff are instructed not to reward certain workers with perks like T-shirts, invite them to all-hands meetings, or allow them to engage in professional development training, an internal training document seen by the Guardian reveals.

The guide instructs Google employees on the ins and outs of interacting with its tens of thousands of temps, vendors and contractors – a class of worker known at Google as TVCs.

“Working with TVCs and Googlers is different,” the training documentation, titled the The ABCs of TVCs, explains. “Our policies exist because TVC working arrangements can carry significant risks.”

The risks Google appears to be most concerned about include standard insider threats, like leaks of proprietary information, but also – and especially – the risk of being found to be a joint employer, a legal designation which could be exceedingly costly for Google in terms of benefits.

Google’s treatment of TVCs has come under increased scrutiny by the company’s full-time employees (FTEs) amid a nascent labor movement at the company, which has seen workers speak out about both their own working conditions and the morality of the work they perform.

American companies have long turned to temps and subcontractors to plug holes and perform specialized tasks, but Google achieved a dubious distinction this year when Bloomberg reported that in early 2018, the company did not directly employ a majority of its own workforce.
Recreation of part of a Google training document

According to a current employee with access to the figures, of approximately 170,000 people around the world who now work at Google, 50.05% are FTEs. The rest, 49.95%, are TVCs.

The two-tier system has complicated labor activism at Google. After 20,000 workers joined a global walkout on 1 November, the company quickly gave in to one of the protesters’ demands by ending forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment – but only for FTEs.

On 5 December, the walkout organizers published an anonymous open letter addressed to Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, from “TVCs at Google”. The letter detailed some of the material concerns that TVCs face due to Google’s differential treatment, including lower wages and “minimal benefits”.

But beyond financial inequality, the letter focused on disparate access to information. “Google routinely denies TVCs access to information that is relevant to our jobs and our lives,” the letter states. “When the tragic shooting occurred at YouTube in April of this year, the company sent real-time security updates to full-time employees only, leaving TVCs defenseless in the line of fire. TVCs were then excluded from a town hall discussion the following day.”

Google disputed this account of the shooting, saying that it worked to provide TVCs with security updates during the incident, though some information was sent through a different email account or came from TVCs’ direct employers. The company also said that it invited TVCs to an all-hands meeting at YouTube after the shooting and gave TVCs at the campus where the shooting occurred access to post-shooting resources, including counseling.

Google said it provided employees with training on many topics, including this material on TVCs, “to adhere to labor laws and policies”.

“We hire Google employees to work on jobs that are core to our business, and look to temps, vendors and contractors when we either don’t have the expertise or infrastructure ourselves, or when we need temporary help due to employee leaves or short-term projects,” a Google spokeswoman, Jenn Kaiser, said in a statement. “Temps, vendors and contractors are an important part of our extended workforce, but they are employed by other companies, not Google.”
Red badges v white badges

Matt was on his way to a “whole team” meeting for a project he was working on when he noticed that one of his co-workers, a test engineer, was still at his desk. “You should come,” Matt, a Google software engineer, recalls saying, only to be told that the meeting was not actually for the whole team: temps, vendors and contractors were not allowed.

“The guy sits with us,” Matt told the Guardian of his co-worker. (Matt asked not to be identified by his real name because he is not authorized to speak to the media.) “Like literally next to my desk. He’s got better knowledge than me about parts of the project, to be honest … It changes the dynamic a lot.”

While excluding his co-worker from an important meeting bothered Matt, leaving the TVC out in the cold was the proper procedure, according to The ABCs of TVCs. “When we share strategic or proprietary information with TVCs through meetings or communications, it can create both co-employment and information security risks for Alphabet,” the document states.

The training instructs Google employees not to invite TVCs to all-hands meetings, team offsites, or the company’s weekly “TGIF” meeting, where employees vote on questions to post to top executives. Indeed, according to two current employees, the company often employs security guards to stand outside all-hands meetings, admitting those whose employee badges are white (FTEs) and keeping TVCs, whose badges are red, outside. The security guards themselves are subcontracted and wear red badges.

The training document includes a number of other common scenarios that Google employees might encounter when working with TVCs. One slide asks whether “Gary” should reward his vendor team with Google T-shirts after they complete a major task.

“Gary should not reward them with shirts,” the document explains, because “swag, bonuses, and other gifts are considered taxable income to the individual”. Instead, Gary is advised to send a thank-you email or write a positive comment on G+, the social network used internally at Google.
Recreation of part of a Google training document

Another scenario involves a Googler noticing that a TVC has listed Google as their employer on LinkedIn, illustrated with a LinkedIn profile of “Tom Temp” claiming to be a “Staffing Coordinator – Google”.

“Since TVCs are not Alphabet employees, they may not represent themselves as such on resumes or external sites (e.g. social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, etc),” the document states. Googlers are encouraged to either “address it with the temp directly”, report the TVC via an anonymous form, or report the TVC to their direct employer.

Other rules address paying for expenses (“their travel should not, under any circumstances, be paid for using a Gcard”), dealing with medical issues, and handling the ambitions of a TVC who wants to take professional development courses (“training beyond what they need to do their jobs is considered an employee benefit … they may not enroll in or attend soft skill or professional development trainings”).

Throughout the training document, the “risk” that TVCs pose to Google is raised numerous times. The document names three types of risks: deviation from the “code of conduct”, such as concerns about harassment or discrimination; risks to security and privacy; and the risk of “co-employment”.

It is this third type of risk that earns the most attention in the document. “Co-employment is a relationship between two or more employers in which each has actual or potential legal rights and duties with respect to the same employee,” the document explains. “If found to be a joint employer of a TVC by an agency or court, then Alphabet could be liable for employer obligations, as well as acts and omissions leading to employment related legal claims.”
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The legal designation of employees is a frequent issue in Silicon Valley, where the multibillion-dollar valuations of startups like Uber and Lyft rely on classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

But while Uber and Lyft have thus far been able to maintain a legal distinction between the software engineers in their corporate headquarters and the armies of drivers working in their own vehicles, there is a major precedent for a tech giant getting in trouble over the TVCs in its own offices.

Microsoft spent much of the 1990s embroiled in a dispute over its expansive use of “permatemps” who often performed similar work to Microsoft employees, but without the access to employment benefits or stock options. In 2000, Microsoft agreed to pay a $97m settlement over a massive class-action lawsuit brought by permatemps.

That settlement was estimated to cover an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 individuals, far fewer than the number of TVCs currently on Google’s books.

To Matt, this is the real reason that he was tasked with learning The ABCs of TVCs. “It’s all about saving money,” he said. “If someone sues them, they want to point at all this fake shit and say, ‘Hey look, there’s such a big difference, see?’

“We are legally in the clear to treat people like garbage.”

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