Last week, a 28-year-old Google employee, graduate of Harvard’s doctorate program in systems biology, wrote a memo about his opinions on gender diversity at the company. The memo enraged many of his colleagues and the wider audience that read his post.
The memo, entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” tried to put forward that part of the reason why there are fewer women in engineering and leadership positions at the company was because of “personality differences” between genders, such as women having a lower tolerance for stress. He argued overall that any diversity tactics or approaches were bad for business and bad for the company.
After the employee posted this memo within the internal mailing list, Google fired him, giving the reason that he had broken the company’s rules by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes”.
The employee quickly responded with the claim that he had a legal right to free speech and should be able to express his concerns about his working environment. He said at the time that he would likely take legal action.
California is an at-will state, meaning that employees can be dismissed without any valid reason being given. However, the legalities around this situation are quite complex. Under federal law, if a person demonstrates a “concerted activity” to protect colleagues from bad practice, they should be protected from dismissal for a period of time. Under this argument, there may be a legal case for the former employee to claim wrongful termination. However, Google may also be able to argue that the memo created a hostile workplace for women.
Source: New york times, “Contentious Memo Strikes Nerve Inside Google and Out,” DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI, Aug. 08, 2017