Ex-Google employee who criticized the Damore memo sues Google after getting fired


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Hold up a sec. I’m dizzy.

A win for Google.

Earlier this week, Team Cool a/k/a the employment-law blogger community, began to report that the National Labor Relations Board had dismissed unfair labor practice charges against Google.

And not just any old charges. No, James Damore filed them. Remember him? He’s that male Google software engineer who got fired last year after posting a 3,300-word criticism of Google’s diversity policies on the company’s internal website.

So, he sued Google and also filed with the NLRB, alleging that he had engaged protected activity by circulating the memo. Consequently, when Google fired him, it infringed upon his Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act to discuss working conditions with other employees.

Or so Mr. Damore thought.

Jon Hyman has the full scoop over at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog. The long and short of it is that, yes, some portions of the memo did rise to the level of protected activity. But, others didn’t. Specifically, the NLRB freaked on the “statements regarding biological differences between the sexes [thqat] were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive as to be unprotected.” And because the NLRB concluded that Google acted based on those unprotected portions of the memo, it did not violate the NLRA when it terminated his employment.

But, that’s not the end of this story.

On Tuesday, Nitasha Tiku at Wired.com reported here that another Google employee, err, ex-employee, wants in on the action.

In a complaint filed in CA state court, Tim Chevalier, who identifies as disabled, queer, and transgender, claims that Google’s internal social networking platforms were “widely used to belittle and harass women, people of color, LGBTQ employees, and other underrepresented groups.” According to Mr. Chevalier, “he pushed back on the online bullying he and others were experiencing, using the same internal messaging systems to try to educate his employer and coworkers on how to change Google’s working conditions to be inclusive and supportive of underrepresented minorities.” Specifically, he characterized Damore’s memo as saying that people who are biologically female are “biologically unsuited” to technical jobs, and described this view as “misogynistic.”

But, then Google fired him.

According to Mr. Chevalier, he claims Google specifically told him that the reason for the termination was “because of his political statements in opposition to the discrimination, harassment, and white supremacy he saw being expressed on Google’s internal messaging systems.”

Commenting publicly on the lawsuit, Google says that it makes employment decisions involving employee communications by applying work rules and “without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

Now, I know that some of you are sitting there scoffing at Google and the other California employers that have to deal with a very “progressive” legal system that protects employees from retaliation based on their political speech.

But, when an employee complains to a company about “discrimination, harassment, and white supremacy,” that’s more than just political speech. So, yes, you can grab your pearls for clutching as I remind you that employers across the county can find themselves staring down the barrel of an expensive lawsuit if they fire someone for complaining about any of this stuff.

We’ll just have to wait and see how Google makes out here.

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