Google has pushed back on claims that it is banning employees from protesting YouTube during the San Francisco Pride Parade. Several outlets reported on Monday that a leaked internal memo barred any Google employees from protesting YouTube while marching with the company at the upcoming event. Most outlets pointed out that Google employees could still protest YouTube at pride, just in their personal capacity rather than alongside the company float. Bloomberg noted that the company's actions could violate federal labor laws protecting workplace activism.
Some Google employees are planning to protest YouTube's muted reaction to conservative commentator Steven Crowder's harassment of LGBT journalist Carlos Maza. By itself, criticizing Google publically is not a violation of the company's code of conduct. In the case of the Pride Parade, employees who hoped to protest Google or YouTube were warned that doing so in their official capacity would be in violation of the company's code of conduct.
A Google spokeswoman told Engadget that there was no leaked internal memo. A member of the Gayglers (which is a group for Google's LGBT employees) met with Google's Employee Engagement team to discuss whether employees marching in Pride with Google could protest the company at the same time. The Gaygler member was told that if employees chose to protest the company at Pride, they had to do so in their personal capacity (and not with the Google float and contingent). The employee then emailed his recap of the meeting to an internal email alias.
Google has been participating in Pride Parades around the world since 2007. But the company is facing backlash from some members of the LGBT community over YouTube's ineffective anti-harassment policy. Earlier this month, a group of activists -- including current and former Google employees -- demanded that the company be banned from the San Francisco Pride Parade at a board meeting. While Google still remains in the parade, it's blatantly clear that company will have to do a lot more to protect its LGBT employees and user base.