March 21 2018

Memo on women crossed line, offensive: Google CEO Sunder Pichai

March 21 2018, 10:21 | Jodi Jackson

Memo on women crossed line, offensive: Google CEO Sunder Pichai

Memo on women crossed line, offensive: Google CEO Sunder Pichai

LOSANGELES-A Google employee who wrote a controversial memo about workplace diversity has been fired, the BBC can confirm.

Days after an anti-diversity "manifesto" went viral inside Google and infuriated thousands of its employees, over 60 current and former Google employees are now considering suing the company for sexism and pay disparities against women.

Reuters and Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the engineer had been fired, citing emails they received from him.

The Twitter hashtag #JamesDamore was drawing a storm of opinions both attacking Damore for his memo and his qualifications as an engineer, and criticizing Google for his dismissal.

According to Pichai, Damore was sacked for violating the company's "Code of Conduct". But CEO Sundar Pichai said in a response sent to Google employees, that while "we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves ... to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK".

More: In a widely shared tweet, Eric Weinstein of Peter Thiel's investment firm Thiel Capital wrote, "Stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR". For most of its history, Google has prided itself on being a haven a for free speech and open debate among employees. It also recently hired a vice president for diversity. Ellis actually left the company in 2014, she says, because she was sexually harassed.

But several employment lawyers said this claim would likely fail because his memo would not be considered a "concerted activity" among Google employees protected by the National Labor Relations Act, just griping by Damore alone.

There is no constitutional right to free speech in the workplace. This is one reason he describes Damore's chance for success as an "uphill battle".

Debra Katz, a Washington, D.C. -based lawyer who often represents employees in discrimination cases, called the level of misunderstanding "tremendous", even though many people know there are limits on what they should and shouldn't say at work. He predicted a complaint brought by Damore would survive a motion to dismiss "barely".

The company was between a rock and a hard place - if it fired him it created a martyr but if it didn't, it would have a staff member whose management and potential hiring decisions would be highly suspect.

The document made world news, Damore was promptly sacked and Google's top brass quickly issued statements distancing the company from its sentiments. It's a safe bet the company would like to sweep this under the rug as soon as possible.

In an email to the New York Times, Google software engineer James Damore said he had lost his job over the manifesto, which he claimed he had written in the hopes of fostering an honest discussion on the company's diversity policies.

The fact that it was circulated at Google suggests a lot of people agreed with it.

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