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Google May Be In Trouble For Firing James Damore (inc.com) 1021

Google fired engineer James Damore after he wrote a 10-page document about "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." taustin writes from a report via Inc. about the potential legal trouble the company may face from firing the "anti-diversity" engineer: Whether Demore is right or wrong, whether one agrees with him or not, Google may have legal trouble for firing him. Employees are protected by federal law when they discuss working conditions with other employees (and this was an internal memo). His memo could be considered whistleblowing, which is also protected (and it is very clear that he was fired as retribution). And, in California, political opinions are protected in the work place as well. Just because one side is wrong doesn't mean the other side is right.
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Google May Be In Trouble For Firing James Damore

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:02AM (#54973339)
    They won't get in trouble because he is a white male. Second they will simply offer a settlement, and then silence him. This will go away.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:21AM (#54973465)

      It's already gone from:

      Horrible sexist mess
      (He has a Ph D from Harvard)
      So, it's a hate filled screed!
      (Did you read it?)
      Okay, it's a Terrible Anti-Diversity Rant!
      (Did you have someone tell you the points using single-syllable words?)
      Damn, well, it is critism of his employer and they can fire him if they want!
      (You can't fire someone for pointing out discrimination, even if you like that kind of discrimination)
      Hey! Did you hear about how Trump did x?

  • by norweeg ( 4623843 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:03AM (#54973347)
    Whistleblowing implies that he was disclosing potentially illegal activity that google was engaging in. Having a code of conduct that forbids creating a hostile work environment for women is not illegal, therefore he is not whistleblowing.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:12AM (#54973409)

      Having a code of conduct that forbids creating a hostile work environment for women is not illegal

      Only hostility around this case is towards the fired engineer. The memo is very mild and tame material in comparison.

      Can you quote some toxic sludge from the memo? I can give you a dozen quotes from the other side that are actually anti-freedom of thought.

    • by bsolar ( 1176767 )

      The disclosure would be about Google's alleged unjustified discrimination in favour of women. Not sure whether it's true or perceived, nor whether it would be illegal, but still.

      The code of conduct is irrelevant since it cannot override the law: if the memo is protected under the law such protection would trump whatever the code of conduct states. Note that it's a pretty big "if".

    • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:23AM (#54973507)

      Whistleblowing implies that he was disclosing potentially illegal activity that google was engaging in.

      ..and what they are doing internally looks to be illegal if Google takes any State subsidies or contracts. Affirmative action is illegal in the State of California when State money is involved. This has been upheld by the State supreme court multiple times since Prop 209 passed in 1996.

      The internal policy isnt that teams should be "diverse." The internal policy is that teams must be "diverse."

      The more I learn about all of this, the more I think I was wrong the other day when I suggested that Google was in the clear legally. Its looking more like they are trying to cover up illegal acts.

  • by naubol ( 566278 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:07AM (#54973361)
    We've gotten to the point where Google thinks that asking tough questions and seeking answers is less valuable than ideological conformity. Even without legal repercussions, this is not a good look for Google. It undermines the idea that tech is a bastion of the enlightenment.
  • True, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bbsguru ( 586178 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:17AM (#54973439) Homepage Journal
    "in California, political opinions are protected in the work place"

    True, right up to the point your opinion conflicts with the majority. Then you'll be shut down, marginalized, and removed.

  • by jareth-0205 ( 525594 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:23AM (#54973495) Homepage

    On the one hand this memo is not the best thing ever to be written... it contains the same moral and intellectual certainty that afflicts programmers generally (and many on this site), and I just generally reject that sort of certainty, especially from someone young and sheltered. Any discussion that tries to lump massive groups of population and assign traits to them is going to fail, and it's also going to harm individuals who are assigned to that group who don't fit the traits assumed. (And you can't get around that by liberally sprinkling the phrase 'on average'.) A policy towards trying to break the human urge to hire copies of yourself should be assumed to be a good idea, in my opinion. You don't know what other sections of society will bring so it's probably a good idea to have representation from them. At the same time diversity of opinion should be encouraged, but a lecture to the entire company about how some groups are generally going to be less good at the job is more than just opinion, it's actively causing other people problems.

    On the other had, firing him doesn't feel like the right thing to do at all, atleast not until he's proven that he's such a dick that nobody will work with him anymore (if that was to be the case). He's young and certain, and I think wrong. But that's not enough of a reason, if he's doing the job and open to rational debate then I can't see why he should be pushed out so quickly.

    • ... of his critics at Google...

      it contains the same moral and intellectual certainty that afflicts programmers generally

      I have news for you, and you probably don't want to hear it. If we put every one of his critics there who supported his firing into a big room, you could swing a dead cat in any direction and not hit someone who is less than 200% more certain that they are absolutely following the righteous path in burning this little heretic. In fact, the actual Spanish Inquisition was kinder and more com

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @10:19AM (#54974125)
        They're actually the ones on worse footing here. He was challenging their hypothesis - that men and women are mentally equivalent in terms of interests and thus the "correct" amount of men and women in tech jobs should be 50/50. He provided empirical evidence backing up his assertion that men and women are different, thus forming the basis for his moral and intellectual certainty. I've never seen any evidence supporting their hypothesis that men and women are equivalent, yet somehow they're morally and intellectually certain they're right?
  • Good mind (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:27AM (#54973565) Journal

    I've just read his document. I must say, that was a very rational appeal to Google to bring more harmony and freedom into its culture.

    I must also say I see no hostility to anyone whatsoever. All he said was "Let's get away from this cult and be as productive (through enabling each and every Google employee to reach his full potential) as we can be".

    And he was fired for it. And THAT is exactly where the hate for SJWs comes from.

    For a long time I was kinda miffed that I don't have the background to have a chance to work for Google. Now I'm kinda glad... I don't think I would have liked that environment very much.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      All he said was "Let's get away from this cult and be as productive (through enabling each and every Google employee to reach his full potential) as we can be".

      But didn't he also argue that an entire group of his coworkers had inherently less potential than other groups simply based on their gender?

      • Re:Good mind (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @10:06AM (#54973983) Journal

        I must agree with the AC. A quote would help. I have read a version posted on a news site and I would not bet on it not having been redacted.

        What I read, though, did not contain any such thing. All he said was that on average, women and men show different traits and needs and instead of acting like that wasn't true Google's culture should try to play into the strengths of women and then accept the ratio of women working there as a probable equilibrium.

        He also said to not only focus on competition as that is a primarily male trait. He more or less proposed that some men who are really focused on status might go elsewhere and make room so to speak.

        IMO he never, ever said anyone (especially not the whole group. He emphasised judging each individual according to their strengths and weaknesses) was unable to do X. He just said that the current culture acted contrary to science and oppressed anyone who disagreed with that notion.

        And I really have no idea why my first post was labelled flamebait :D.

      • Re:Good mind (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @10:06AM (#54973985)

        But didn't he also argue that an entire group of his coworkers had inherently less potential than other groups simply based on their gender?

        No.

        Any other questions? Maybe instead of asking whats in it, you should read it. Maybe instead of pretending to be an expert on whats in it, you should read it first.

  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:29AM (#54973585) Journal
    Since we are talking in the subjunctive tense...

    Google may have found itself in trouble for not firing James Damore. He contributes into the peer performance review system there, and he had openly expressed an opinion that women, as a category, aren't on a par with men with respect to coding. That presents a liability to Google from a different direction.
  • by Nocturrne ( 912399 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:32AM (#54973621)
    All along, this was just his retirement plan. Why continue working with people you hate when you can get paid millions just to stfu and go away? He is probably already shopping for boats.
  • by Oxygen99 ( 634999 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:32AM (#54973623)
    The weirdest thing about all this are the critics who label Damore's firing as Orwellian while overlooking the greatest data aggregation exercise in human history.
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @09:47AM (#54973795)

    Every big company just makes these things go away. Google is going to reach into the couch cushions, pull out a few million bucks, and give it to the guy. It's all about risk management; I'm sure they want this whole thing to disappear so that they're not dragged in front of the media every single time a court date comes up.

    In my opinion. they were right to get rid of him. Regardless of the content of what was published, you don't start a highly politically-charged fight, drag your employer into it, and expect to keep your job. Especially when the CEO has to cut his vacation short -- I'm sure that was the last straw. I've been nothing but professional in my career, and there have been _plenty_ of times I could have unloaded on this or that in a public forum but chose not to.

    And besides, aren't we beyond this "women are inherently different" thing? Being in IT, you do work with a lot of guys and there is a definite gender gap. But, part of me thinks women are just being rational and avoiding what can be a stressful, thankless job if you're in the wrong environment. It's not all, or even the majority of men I've worked with, but I have worked with some very vocal men who border on the MRA level. But when you get down to the root of the problem, most of them are unmarried/unmarryable, or worse, on their second or third wife and paying large amounts of child support. From what I've seen, that's where a lot of the bitter complaining comes from, and if I was getting 50+% of my salary siphoned off each pay period I'd probably be bitter too.

  • by dnaumov ( 453672 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @10:31AM (#54974303)

    He made Sundar Pichai cancel his family vacation. Having the CEO cancel a vacation does tend to lead to firings.

  • So much wrong!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PuckSR ( 1073464 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @10:47AM (#54974487)

    While California says you can't be fired for HAVING a political opinion, you can be fired for expressing it.
    In the rest of the US, your boss can walk in and fire you just for posting a Pro-Trump picture on your personal facebook page. Alternatively, he could just ask every Republican to raise their hand and then tell everyone who didn't raise their hand, "You're fired".
    California banned this practice.
    However, your boss can still fire you for wearing a Trump hat to work or sending an internal email that advocates for Hillary Clinton.

    Whistleblower Protection
    You are a pretty weird whistleblower if you complain internally about a public practice. I cannot imagine anyone EVER considering this a case of whistleblowing.
    That would be like an Apple engineer sending around an internal memo about the small battery in their new phones, and then people calling that "whistleblowing". You can't blow the whistle on something that everyone knows about!

    Right to Discuss Working Conditions
    May be viable. Unfortunately, the memo didn't really discuss working conditions. It discussed business practices. Working conditions addresses how the business practices have an impact on the employee. He was discussing how he felt they were wrong-headed and misguided. Those might be fair assessments, but they are not addressing HIS working conditions.
    Did he work more hours because of the hiring practices?
    Did he get less time off?
    Did it impact him in any demonstrable way?

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