Google Fires Engineer Espousing Racism and Sexism
James Damore, 28, confirmed his dismissal from Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday, after he wrote a 10-page memo that the company was hostile to conservative viewpoints shaped by a flawed left-wing ideology. The manifesto was quickly embraced by some, particularly on the political right, branding him a brave truth-teller. Others found his views, which argued that men in general may be biologically more suited to coding jobs than women, offensive.
Non-union or “at will” employees, such as most tech workers, can be fired in the United States for a wide array of reasons that have nothing to do with performance. The U.S. National Labor Relations Act guarantees workers, whether they are in a union or not, the right to engage in “concerted activities” for their “mutual aid or protection”. Damore, though, would likely face an uphill fight to seek that protection based on his memo, said Alison Morantz, a Stanford University law professor with expertise in labor law.
“It’s going to be a hard sell that this activity was either concerted or for mutual aid or protection, rather than simply venting or pitting one group of workers against the others, which does not sound very mutual,” Morantz said.. Damore’s views left Google little to no choice but to terminate his employment, since he had effectively created a hostile work environment for women. Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo ‘violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.’ But he didn’t say if the company was taking action against the employee. A Google representative, asked about the dismissal, referred to Pichai’s memo.
Silicon Valley has long been criticized for not doing enough to encourage gender equality. Many women in the industry say that less visible day-to-day bias often impedes their careers. After the controversy swelled, Danielle Brown, Google’s new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Damore’s views and reaffirmed the company’s stance on diversity.
Ironically, in the early days of tech, it was mostly women who held the then-unglamorous jobs of coding. But as the value of top-notch programming became clear, it became a mostly male domain and the vast majority of programmers in the tech industry are now men.
Levi Sumagaysay wrote Sunday for the Bay Area News Group, “while it’s true that Google publicly champions the hiring of women and minorities to diversify its workforce, which like many others in the corporate world continues to be largely white and male, the tech giant was actually accused by the Department of Labor of routinely paying women less. The government is asking the company to provide detailed employee data, which Google is fighting. . . .”
Google reported in June that its global employee workforce was 69 percent men and 31 percent women. In the United States, its ethnic composition was 56 percent white, 35 percent Asian, 4 percent two or more races, 4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black.
Google Is About The Bottomline
Damore wasn’t writing on his personal blog but a memo. It’s reasonable to conclude, after reading the memo, that Damore would discriminate against his female colleagues in peer review which is how one advances at Google.
Here is what Mr. Damore (He says he has a PhD but Harvard says he only has a Masters), does not understand. Diversity is good and sexism is real. Companies with more women leaders tend to be more profitable.
Finally, saying what you believe is no guarantee that you’ll have a job. He can ask another former employee in the Bay Area about what, in his case was, speaking out against racial inequality and police brutality will do for your job prospects. If it’s bad for business, it’s bad for business. I would think his rightwing defenders would understand that. Julian Assange has offered Mr. Damore a job, so saying women aren’t biologically cut out for tech jobs is not an employment disqualifier. That has to be comforting for some.