James Damore was the subject of controversy last year when he wrote an extensive screed claiming that the reason that there are not more women employed in the tech industry is that they are “neurotic” and “biological reasons” are justifiably used to reject female candidates when tech companies are hiring.
This could have been dismissed as just another somewhat sexist rant by a conservative writer. However, at the time Damore was employed by Google, and he distributed it as a memo, so the piece went viral, and after strenuous denials that Damore’s opinions reflected their own, Google announced he was fired.
Damore then enjoyed the standard ’15 minutes of fame’ the Internet grants to almost anyone these days, but was expected, like most viral sensations, to fade away into the background.
The former Google engineer, however, has other plans. He recently initiated a class action lawsuit against his former employers on behalf of himself, a co-plaintiff and ‘others who share his views’. The suit claims that the company discriminates against white men and actively alienates any conservatives employed within its ranks.
The complaint, filed in a California court, claims that Damore was “ostracized, belittled and punished” over his conservative views and that he and others were “singled out, mistreated, and systematically punished and terminated from Google, in violation of their legal rights.”
The complaint is long and detailed. Among its many claims, it contends that CFO Ruth Porat ‘regularly shamed’ departments if they lacked diversity and made incorrect hiring decisions based solely on race and gender that were “to the detriment of Caucasian and male employees.”
Other ‘highlights’ of the filing include that white men were consistently booed at meetings and conferences, that employees were encouraged, and given bonuses, to silence those with conservative opinions, and that the company maintains a blacklist of figures not to be invited onto their campuses that includes radio host Alex Jones and conservative blogger Curtis Yarvin.
Google has, at the time of writing, yet to comment on Damore’s suit. Does it stand a chance? According to Rich Newsome, attorney and co-founder of Newsome Melton Law, “That the suit will be considered to have great merit is somewhat doubtful. But it will reignite the debate the plaintiff himself stated last year over diversity – or lack of it – in the tech industry in general.”
The lawsuit came as one of the biggest tech events of the year, CES, was being lambasted on social media for its failure to invite a single female keynote speaker this year. Some minor protests were planned for the show, but it actually proceeded without issue and attracted its usual large international audience despite calls for a boycott. However, the CES story, and Damore’s legal action are indeed likely to bring a sensitive issue back into the spotlight once again, as was suggested above.