Author of Google Diversity Memo Files Labor Complaint After Firing

Google Employee's Gender biased views cause company reprimand

Former Google engineer James Damore is being held up as a free-speech hero by his supporters, but his dismissal by the tech giant might may be more of an ethical morass than a legal issue.

The 10-page missive took aim at Google's "misguided" diversity efforts, accused the company of political bias and suggested women are biologically unsuited to jobs in the technology field.

Sundar Pichai, Google's chief executive officer, criticized Damore's memo in an email for "advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace".

Such voices would likely increase during a legal case, and Jeffrey Hirsch, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said the controversy could lead Google to settle any legal action brought by Damore.

While it's true the U.S. Constitution grants Damore the right to express himself, the First Amendment protects citizens' free speech rights from being restricted by the government, not employers.

Roy Gutterman, a free speech authority at Syracuse University, noted that the traditional goal of anti-discrimination laws have been to protect historically disadvantaged groups, not white men. He joined Google as an intern in 2013 and worked as a software engineer at the company since December that year. "But every company should use that power judiciously to avoid creating a perceived political litmus test for employment". He also notes that if Damore were able to prove that he was sacked because he filed a charge with the NLRB, that would be a violation of the law regardless of the charge's merits.

According to Pichai, Damore was sacked for violating the company's "Code of Conduct".


What's clear, however, is that Google has waded into an ethical thicket. At Apple, around 30 percent of total employees are women.

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). "The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender", Pichai wrote in the letter to Google employees. "Whether the content was liberal or conservative, it's not appropriate for an employee to misuse resources in this way". Just a few weeks into the job, she's been out front.

It may seem ironic to his supporters that Damore was sacked after writing that he heard some co-workers say they were fearful of expressing the same views because they were anxious about getting fired.

These aren't the only times Google, sexism, and a gender pay gap have been talked about together.

A Paul Hastings representative confirmed that the firm was representing Google in the Damore case but declined to provide further comment.

It forced Google's new head of diversity, Danielle Brown, to slam the e-mail in her own message to staff. "Improving an organization doesn't start with throwing a grenade into the conference room". Business Insider's Dana Varinsky was able to debunk many of Damore's scientific claims. The diversity work, he said, "alienates non-progressives".

Some on Twitter are calling for a boycott of Google over this issue and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has reportedly offered the fired engineer a job.

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