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Fired Google employee files reverse discrimination lawsuit

January 9, 2018

The ex-employee, who notoriously posited that "biological causes" explained why many of Google's senior staff were male, now argues that he was unfairly dismissed. He's the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit.

USA ehem. Mitarbeiter James Damore verklagt Google
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Liedtke

A former Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about the company's hiring quotas, filed a lawsuit against the US tech giant on Monday, alleging it discriminates against men, conservatives and Caucasians.

James Damore was dismissed in August for violating Google's code of conduct, after he posted an internal memo saying that fewer women than men worked in the tech industry because of biological differences.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told employees in a note that portions of the anti-diversity memo "violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

Read more: Google fires employee behind 'gender stereotypes' memo

The 161-page class action lawsuit claims Google "ostracized, belittled and punished" him and others "for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males."

Google "employs illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favored minority candidates, and openly shames managers of business units who fail to meet their quotas — in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favoured than others," the lawsuit said.

Read more: Google faces class action gender pay discrimination lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed in a court in Santa Clara, in California's Silicon Valley.

Damore is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which has also been filed on behalf of other people who could be categorized into three "subclasses of individuals" that Google discriminated against, Damore's attorney, former Republican Party official Harmeet Dhillon, said in a Monday press conference posted on Facebook.

The three subclasses are conservatives, Caucasians and men.

Read more: Women getting ripped off: In Germany, pink razors cost more

"All three subclasses happened to James because he is all of those three, but I want to be very clear that the lawsuit classes include women, they include people of colour who happen to fall into one of those three classes," Dhillon said.

She added that Google had retaliated against Damore for "raising workplace issues" and in doing so violated provisions of California and federal law relating to discrimination.

Women have 'more neuroticism'

In Damore's memo, he wrote that "the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes … These differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

Damore said women displayed "extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness" and "higher agreeableness … This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading."

Made in Germany - Gender Gap - Unequal Careers

He also said women exhibited "more neuroticism," with higher anxiety levels and lower stress tolerance. "This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs," Dalmore wrote.

At the press conference, Damore defended the comments made in the memo. "There is definitely a lot of discrimination in that certain programs are not open to certain people," he said.

"I believe the document I wrote and the comments that were shared showed that this was a common experience," he added. 

Read more: Asia-Pacific women 'under-represented' in leadership roles

Google's new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, Danielle Brown, responded to Damore's document in a memo to Google employees, saying, "Like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender."

"Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul," she said.

law/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)