Engineer Fired Over Diversity 'Manifesto' Threatens to Sue Google

Former Google Engineer James Damore says he intends to sue because he was wrongfully terminated for circulating a 10-page member that he said was intended to spur honest discussion about the gender gap in technology and leadership roles.

Google Engineer Termination

Google has fired an employee who recently penned a controversial internal memo that claimed women's under-representation in technology jobs and leadership positions was the result of biological factors and not overt gender discrimination.

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.

Damore, whom the Times said had worked at Google's search group, is now apparently planning on suing his former employer for wrongful termination. Damore described his memo as a way to express rightful concerns over the terms and conditions of his employment at Google.

Earlier, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had described the Damore's screed as violating Google's code of conduct and advancing harmful stereotypes about gender in the workplace.  “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," Pichai said in an internal email titled "Our Words Matter" that Recode obtained and published this week.

Damore had claimed that left-leaning biases at Google had created a "politically correct monoculture" at the company that stifled honest and open discussions about gender and race.

His memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" accused the company of resorting to differential treatment for women and people of certain races in order to increase their representation in technology and leadership positions.

As examples, he pointed to hiring practices that allegedly lowered the bar for "diversity" candidates, unspecified special treatment for them and special programs and mentoring classes for women and members of certain races.

"At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership," Damore said. But it is really the biological differences between men and women that are responsible for the gender gap, he argued.

Damore's 10-page memo went on to list several of what he saw as differences between the genders including personality differences and the apparently higher drive for status that men possess compared to women. The memo also offered several suggestions for non-discriminatory ways that Google can reduce the gender gap.

Damore's manifesto evoked considerable outrage inside the company, with many employees wanting him fired for his comments. Pichai acknowledged that the memo had impacted employees some of whom he said are hurting because they feel their being judged based only on gender.

The Times published another excerpt from Pichai's email where he asserted "our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being ‘agreeable’ rather than ‘assertive,’ showing a ‘lower stress tolerance,’ or being 'neurotic.'"

Damore's LinkedIn profile shows him as having graduated with a Bachelors degree in molecular biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD in systems biology from Harvard. He joined Google as an intern in 2013 and worked as a software engineer at the company since December that year.

Since publishing the memo, Damore has received support for his view from some quarters including Brietbart News and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who used his Twitter account to offer the fired engineer a job. "Censorship is for losers," Assange claimed. "@WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore."

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.