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Business

Fired Google Engineer Files Complaint, Weighs Legal Options

James Damore, whose memo over the weekend caused an uproar online, said in an email that he was terminated late Monday for "perpetuating gender stereotypes"

A sign outside Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, photo: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez
2 months ago

MENLO PARK – A former Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about gender differences said Tuesday he’s exploring all his legal options and has already filed a labor complaint over his treatment.

James Damore, whose memo over the weekend caused an uproar online, said in an email that he was terminated late Monday for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” He said he considers his firing illegal because he had already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The board declined to comment.


A filing by Damore with the board Monday alleged he was subjected to “coercive statements” while at Google.

Google declined to comment on the matter, but an email from CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday called Damore’s memo “harmful.” Pichai was cutting short a family vacation to address staff in a town hall Thursday.

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai wrote.


The engineer’s widely shared memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” criticized Google for pushing mentoring and diversity programs and for “alienating conservatives.”

Google’s just-hired head of diversity, Danielle Brown, responded earlier with her own memo, saying that Google is “unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success.” She said change is hard and “often uncomfortable.”

Damore’s memo, which gained attention online over the weekend, begins by saying that only honest discussion will address a lack of equity. But it also asserts that women “prefer jobs in social and artistic areas” while more men “may like coding because it requires systemizing.”

The memo says biological differences between men and women may explain why women are not equally represented in the technology industry.


Damore’s filing with the NLRB cites a part of the labor relations act that gives employees the right to engage in “protected concerted” activities. That includes being active on social media , though the original document appeared to be shared internally and later reposted many times.

The Twitter hashtag #JamesDamore was drawing a storm of opinions both attacking Damore for his memo and his qualifications as an engineer, and criticizing Google for his dismissal.

The battling messages come as Silicon Valley grapples with accusations of sexism and discrimination. Google is also in the midst of a Department of Labor investigation into whether it pays women less than men, while Uber’s CEO recently lost his job amid accusations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination.

Leading tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Uber, have said they are trying to improve hiring and working conditions for women. But diversity numbers are barely changing .

RYAN NAKASHIMA

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