Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Independent federal authorities have started investigating labor practices at technology giant Google, in connection with the company firing four employees last month.
The National Labor Relations Board opened the case after the workers were dismissed during the week of Thanksgiving. The workers -- Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers and Sophie Waldman -- argue they were illegally fired for labor organizing.
In a blog post last week titled "Google fired us for organizing. We're fighting back," they say Google policy encourages employees to speak out -- but said the company retaliated when they did.
"We spoke up when we saw Google making unethical business decisions that create a workplace that is harmful to us and our colleagues," they wrote. "We participated in legally protected labor organizing, fighting to improve workplace conditions for all Google workers.
"How did they respond? Google didn't respond by honoring its values, or abiding by the law. It responded like a large corporation more interested in revenue growth than in ensuring worker rights and ethical conduct."
The Communication Workers of America filed an official complaint with the NLRB last week on behalf of the former Google employees. The federal investigation was reported Monday by CNBC, The Hill and CNN.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company says, however, the workers' dismissals had nothing to do with labor organization.
"We dismissed four individuals who were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees' materials and work," Google said in a statement. "No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company's activities."
The NLRB is an independent agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing U.S. labor laws.
The inquiry comes three months after Google reached a settlement with the board a over separate claim by an employee that he was fired for expressing conservative views. Under the terms of the deal, the company was not required to admit wrongdoing but agreed to post lists of employees' rights and protections at its offices.