Google’s fired engineer sexually harassed co-workers via memo, says U.S. labor board lawyer
The memo itself constituted "sexual harassment" according to a lawyer.
Fired Google software engineer James Damore’s controversial memo on gender issues in the workplace constituted sexual harassment and the Mountain View tech giant was right to sack him, a federal labor board memo said.
Damore’s discrimination lawsuit against Google will not be affected by the claims in the National Labor Relations Board memo, which mischaracterizes allegations against Damore as sexual harassment, said his lawyer Harmeet Dhillon.
But Google is likely to use the memo to defend itself against the lawsuit filed by Damore, said a San Francisco employment lawyer.
The Jan. 16 federal labor board memo, from a labor board lawyer to the regulator’s Oakland-based regional director, said Damore’s “statements about immutable traits linked to sex — such as women’s heightened neuroticism and men’s prevalence at the top of the IQ distribution — were discriminatory and constituted sexual harassment, notwithstanding effort to cloak comments with ‘scientific’ references and analysis, and notwithstanding ‘not all women’ disclaimers.”
“Those statements were likely to cause serious dissension and disruption in the workplace. Indeed, the memorandum did cause extreme discord,” the labor board memo said. “Numerous employees complained to the Employer that the memorandum was discriminatory against women, deeply offensive, and made them feel unsafe at work.”
Of his subsequent firing, the labor board memo said Google acted appropriately in terminating him only for statements not protected by law — and that Google did not fire him over his comments “expressing a dissenting view on matters affecting working conditions or offering critical feedback of its policies and programs, which were likely protected.”
That's an interesting angle. "Expressing a dissenting view on matters affecting working conditions or offering critical feedback of its policies and programs" would be protected by law, but his memo itself, even though not directed at any individual person or persons, was an act of sexual harassment and thus not protected. This is the legal opinion of the National Labor Relations Board.
In other news, Damore was not the only one to be fired:Google Fired and Disciplined Employees for Speaking Out About Diversity
Tim Chevalier, who was fired in November 2017 from his role as a site reliability engineer at Google after he made several internal posts calling out racism and sexism at the company, sued Google today for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. Chevalier, who is transgender, queer, and disabled, alleges that Google failed to protect its female, minority, and LGBTQ employees from harassment on internal forums—but was quick to crack down on those employees when they spoke out about their experiences with racism, sexism, and homophobia at work.
Chevalier is one of four current and former Google employees who said they were disciplined for speaking out internally against racism and sexism—speech that Google allegedly deemed discriminatory toward white men. One of them requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about their experiences at Google. The earliest examples documented by Gizmodo occurred in 2016, before Damore began working on his memo, but Google’s efforts appear to have escalated after the memo was published.
Google did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails from Gizmodo requesting comment prior to the publication of this story. In a statement provided after publication, Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano said, “An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace, that doesn’t mean anything goes. All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited. This is a very standard expectation that most employers have of their employees. The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.”
Colin McMillen, a staff software engineer at Google who has worked at the company for eight years, said he was reprimanded by human resources for an internal post in which he stated he did not want to work with individuals who shared Damore’s beliefs. Bridget Spitznagel, an engineer who left Google last spring, said human resources demanded that she remove an internal post that linked to information about an upcoming racial justice workshop. Another former employee described being disciplined for a comment defending one of Google’s recruitment programs.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.