Google employee fired over diversity memo considers legal action

A Google engineer who was fired for a memo assailing the company’s diversity policies is considering legal action, but seemingly faces long odds of a successful case.

James Damore caused an uproar and ultimately lost his job after authoring a 10-page essay that said women are not biologically fit for certain technology roles. He also warned against “arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women” and claimed that efforts to hire more women via such methods are “misguided and biased.”

After he was terminated, Mr Damore – whose sacking has not been officially confirmed by the company – told Reuters that he was exploring his options and said he had filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board before he was fired. He claimed in another email to a number of outlets that he would “likely be pursuing legal action”.

He did not respond to a message from The Independent seeking more details on his plans. A spokesman for the NLRB could not comment on any potential case, citing privacy protections.

Employment law gives employers broad discretion to fire at-will employees – workers who do not have contracts, like those negotiated by unions, that create more stringent requirements to fire someone. In an email to employees explaining the reaction to Mr Damore’s actions, Google CEO Sundar Pinchai – who is said to have returned from a vacation to deal with the matter – backed the rights of employees to “express themselves” but said Mr Damore’s comments breached the company’s code of conduct and “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

Such reasoning should be a sufficient reason for Mr Damore’s firing, said Reuel Schiller, a professor and labour law expert at UC Hastings College of Law, since employee protections prevent people being fired for discriminatory reasons like a person’s race or religion.

But there is precedent in California of courts ruling in favour of employees who were fired for being outspoken about their views, noted William Gould, a professor emeritus at Stanford who chaired the NLRB. In one case, he noted, the law sided with a pacifist who had shared his anti-war views with coworkers.

“Employees can speak out, but I think the employer’s defence would be that this guy was speaking about women in a very stereotypical manner that was likely to prove to be disruptive,” said Mr Gould.

In his essay, Mr Damore complained about Google’s…

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