The author of a controversial memo that sparked debates about gender and diversity at Google sued his former employer on Monday, alleging that the company discriminates against politically conservative white men.
James Damore, who was fired in August for internally circulating a manifesto that argued Google’s gender pay gap was the result of genetic differences that tend to favor men, said in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara Superior Court that the search giant “singled out, mistreated, and systematically punished and terminated” employees who deviated from the company’s view on diversity. Damore and a second plaintiff, David Gudeman, another former Google engineer, are seeking class-action status for anyone who identifies as conservative, Caucasian, or male.
The men are being represented by Harmeet K. Dhillon, the Republican National Committee’s committeewoman for California.
“Google’s management goes to extreme — and illegal — lengths to encourage hiring managers to take protected categories such as race and/or gender into consideration as determinative hiring factors, to the detriment of Caucasian and male employees and potential employees at Google,” the suit reads. "... 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 favored than others. Not only was the numerical presence of women celebrated at Google solely due to their gender, but the presence of Caucasians and males was mocked with “boos” during company- wide weekly meetings."
Damore’s lawsuit is the latest legal challenge for Google, which also faces a suit for unequal pay. Earlier this month, four women plaintiffs, as part of a revised lawsuit, alleged that the company had asked for their previous salaries and had underpaid them compared to their male counterparts.
Damore’s suit, which comes from the opposite end of the spectrum, was expected given his very public hiring of Dhillon in August. That month, the Dhillon Law Group published a blog post asking for anyone who had experienced illegal or retaliatory employment practices to get in touch.
"We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore's lawsuit in court," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
In the 161-page complaint, Damore frames himself as a model Google employee who received eight performance bonuses and $150,000 per year in stock bonuses since he started working at the company in the summer of 2013. Despite this, he was terminated from his job after voicing his complaints about diversity practices and publishing his now-infamous 10-page memo, titled “Google's Ideological Echo Chamber.”
“Damore was surprised by Google’s position on blatantly taking gender into consideration during the hiring and promotion processes, and in publicly shaming Google business units for failing to achieve numerical gender parity,” reads the suit, following an event in March 2017 in which Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat and Human Resources Director Eileen Naughton allegedly “shamed” managers with less than a 50% female workforce.
Damore also says that he felt forced to attend and participate in diversity training events and that he was threatened and insulted by his coworkers following the publishing of his memo. He included an email from another Google employee who promised to “hound” Damore until one of them was fired.
Among the suit's more incendiary claims is that the company endorses "blacklists," which are allegedly meant to highlight employees with conservative views and prevent them from receiving certain jobs or promotions. The lawsuit also alleges that the company maintains separate lists of conservative personalities, including right-wing blogger Curtis Yarvin and InfoWars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, to prevent them from stepping foot on Google's campus.
The 28-year-old Damore has remained unemployed since he was terminated from Google, noting in his suit that management did not identify “any Google policy or procedure that Damore had violated." Since then, he's made a slew of media appearances, started a Twitter account, and met with conservative media and political figures, including Peter Thiel, according to several sources. A spokesperson for Thiel declined to comment.
"I would welcome the chance to go back to Google and I do feel like I could improve things there," Damore said a press conference on Monday at Dhillon's San Francisco office. Gudeman, the other named plaintiff, did not attend the event.
Gudeman, according to his LinkedIn profile, worked at Google as an engineer from November 2013 to December 2016. He is currently a self-employed software contractor and writer.
Dhillon spoke for much of the event as her client watched silently and chimed in only when questions were directed his way. She stressed that the suit was an employment one, and not about free speech, and that while she had had "dozens" of people contact her about their experiences at Google, only Damore and Gudeman were willing to be named due to fear of reprisal.
With plenty of cameras rolling, Dhillon hit familiar right-wing talking points, from the virtue signaling of Hollywood and Oprah to Silicon Valley's supposedly higher tolerance for "furry sex parties" than conservative views, to establish that Damore's firing had been politically motivated. And Damore, she said, was not the only one to experience this at Google.
Others "wanted to put names, but there is a specific blacklisting of conservatives," Dhillon said. "Nobody wants to be a martyr and nobody wants to do this to help others unless they have to do it. That’s why James is here."
Joseph Bernstein contributed additional reporting to this story.
This story was updated with quotes from a Monday press conference and with a comment from a Google spokesperson.
Ryan Mac is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on the intersection of money, technology and power.
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