A former Google software engineer, who wrote an internal memo criticizing the company’s diversity policies, has filed a labor complaint, saying he was wrongfully fired.
In a statement emailed to news agencies, James Damore said he filed the complaint with the National Labor Relations Board prior to his termination and that, “It’s illegal to retaliate against the NLRB charge.”
Damore said he was subjected to “coercive statements” while working at Google. According to the Associated Press, a Google spokesperson said the company could not have retaliated against Damore because it was not aware of the complaint until hearing about it in the news media after he was dismissed.
Damore caused an uproar after the website Gizmodo published a leaked copy of the memo he wrote, encouraging Google to "treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group," and questioning the effectiveness of diversity programs at the company.
Sundar Pichai, Google's chief executive officer, criticized Damore's memo in an email for "advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."
In the 10-page internal memo, titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," Damore asserted that fewer women are employed in the technology field because they "prefer jobs in social and artistic areas," while men are more inclined to become computer programmers — a fact he said was due to "biological causes."
Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, said the memo “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender” and promotes a viewpoint not encouraged by the company.
“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions,” she said. “But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”
The controversy comes as Silicon Valley faces accusations of sexism and discrimination. Google is in the midst of a Department of Labor investigation over allegations women there are paid less than men.