Google cancels town hall meeting, and fired engineer tells his side of the story

A day after Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai canceled a staff meeting to address gender discrimination, the former employee behind a memo deriding the company’s diversity efforts wrote an essay explaining why he thinks he was fired.

In a column published Friday on the Wall Street Journal’s website, former Google engineer James Damore — who argued in a memo that biological differences help explain why women are underrepresented at the company — blames his termination on the firm’s “ideological echo chamber.”

“My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company’s ‘ideological echo chamber,’ ” Damore wrote. “My firing neatly confirms that point. How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument?”

Google had scheduled an internal town hall meeting Thursday to allow employees to discuss grievances over a flareup that has consumed the company for much of the week, but Pichai said in an email to staff it had been a canceled after several Google employees became fearful for their safety and grew concerned about being outed for speaking up at the town hall.

He said the company will aim to create several other forums “where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.” Pichai’s email was sent about an hour before the event was to start Thursday afternoon.

Google fired Damore on Monday. The engineer has claimed he had a right to voice concerns over workplace conditions and filed a labor relations board complaint prior to being fired.

Google has an internal system that allows employees to ask questions and then vote on questions posed by other employees so managers can address the most pressing ones. Wired magazine published some of the questions verbatim online Thursday. Screenshots of the questions with names attached had been leaked, although none with names had been published as of late Thursday, a Google spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, a graphic composed of the Twitter profiles of several Google employees who were gay, lesbian or transgender began to circulate online, assisted by conservative commentators such as former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos. That graphic drew hundreds of negative comments about the people and the company.

Times staff writer Alexa D’Angelo contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

2:55 p.m.: This article was updated to include reference to an essay by James Damore published by the Wall Street Journal.

This article was originally published at 4:45 a.m.

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