Fired memo writer sues Google for discriminating against white, conservative men

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Tuesday January 09th, 2018

Exhibit A: The memo that got him fired because it was too positive in its view of men and conservative thinking.

You knew this was coming. Google's decision to fire James Damore for his "anti-diversity memo" as the media helpfully labeled it was one of the most blatant examples ever seen of a company censoring one political point of view - but only one - while absurdly claiming employees are free to speak their minds.

That said, I'm not that confident about Damore's chances. Google has the right to set its own policies, and to discipline employees who undermine those policies. Nothing in Damore's memo was inflammatory or hateful. It was thoughtful and well-reasoned, and simply sought to offer a different perspective on why women might struggle to land and hold certain jobs. It was counter to the orthodoxy, but a company that's not afraid of ideas and critical thinking wouldn't have a problem with that.

Google is not such a company, however. It is deathly afraid of ideas and critical thinking, and is so steeped in the idea that discrimination - and only discrimination - can explain any such differences that it simply can't abide a perspective to the contrary. Is it legal for a company to be that committed to such narrow-mindedness, even to the point where you can be fired for challenging it? I'm not so sure it's not, but Damore is going about to find out:

James Damore, the former Google engineer who fueled that debate with a memo suggesting men were better suited than women for certain tech jobs, and another former Google engineer filed the lawsuit on Monday.

They allege that Google is a hostile workplace for employees with conservative views, and that the company unfairly favors women and certain minorities when hiring and promoting.

Google fired Mr. Damore in August over the memo, which criticized the company’s diversity efforts, saying it violated company policy and advanced “harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said, “we look forward to defending against Mr. Damore’s lawsuit in court.”

Putting on my employer hat, it's easy to see the case for firing Damore. The company had a policy, and Damore sent around an anonymous memo ripping the policy to shreds. If I set a policy and an employee did that, and I found out who did it, you're damn right I'd fire him. I would take the position that he could have brought is concerns to me rather than undermining my policy with an anonymous memo to the whole company.

Of course, when I owned a company with employees, it was a small company and I was easily accessible to anyone who wanted to talk to me. I don't know but I imagine you can't just wander into the executive suite at Google and tell the big bosses you don't like their policies. And while Damore's memo did undermine company policy, it didn't do so in a disrepectful or provocative way. Damore was trying to get Google to think more objectively and less ideologically about why women are poorly represented in certain kinds of jobs. The objective was clearly not to try to hurt the company but to get it to reconsider a way of looking at things such that they might get better results in dealing with the problem.

The bottom line is that I don't think Google fired Damore just because he expressed a contrary opinion. I think they fired him because that contrary opinion was a conservative one concerning an issue on which it's been culturally decided that's not allowed. Despite my declaration above about how I'd have reacted to a similar situation in a small-company setting, I don't think Google did the right thing because I believe they were mainly reacting to Damore's conservatism, not to the mere fact that he offered a dissenting opinion.

But just because it was wrong to do doesn't mean they didn't have the right to do it. I'll be surprised if Damore wins this case. And surely he knew when he wrote the memo that he was risking being fired. I'd have to believe there are more open-minded tech companies out there who'd be interested in his services - provided, of course, they don't suspect he'll write a memo undermining their policies as well.

Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!