If you plan to write the Great American Novel and you work at Google, you may want to think again if the subject is the office. The tech giant is being sued over confidentiality policies that purportedly ban employees from, among other things, writing novels "about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley" without Google approval, the Guardian reports.
The lawsuit, spotted by the Information, was filed this week by an unnamed product manager who claims Google is running a "spying program" that encourages workers to snitch on their colleagues.
The legal action charges Google's policies violate California and federal free speech laws, and restrict employees from seeking other jobs because they can't use all their job skills.
"Google’s motto is 'don’t be evil.' Google’s illegal confidentiality agreements and policies fail this test," the lawsuit contends. Among other no-nos: writing critical opinions, discussing workplace conditions and wages, speaking to the press, or implying that anything "illegal" is going on, including to government regulators.
That includes sending an email that says, "'I think we broke the law' or 'I think we violated this contract,'" notes SFist. The suit was brought by an employee on behalf of another, and follows a similar complaint filed earlier this year with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Guardian notes that if the worker prevails, 75% of the penalty would go to the state coffers, with the rest shared by Google employees. That penalty could max out at $4 billion.
Google called the suit "baseless" and says in a statement that "transparency is a huge part of our culture. Our employee confidentiality requirements are designed to protect proprietary business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and conditions of employment, or workplace concerns." (Microsoft sued the feds after 5,624 demands for customer data came with 2,576 gag orders.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Novel Writing a No-No at Google: Lawsuit