James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired after writing a widely circulated memo arguing women were biologically inferior to men in coding, has sued the Mountain View, Calif., tech giant alleging discrimination against his political views.
In a class-action complaint filed Monday, Damore argued that he was harassed at Google for being a white male. Another former Google engineer, David Gudeman, is also a member of the suit.
“Damore, Gudeman, and other class members were ostracized, belittled, and punished for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males,” the suit says.
Damore raised a furor at Google when he released a 10-page memo in August slamming the company for liberal bias, complaining about diversity training and blaming biological shortcomings for the dearth of women in tech.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai quickly denounced Damore’s memo for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes.” The company said it fired Damore for violating its code of conduct.
“We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore's lawsuit in court,” a Google spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.
The company is currently fighting claims by the U.S. Department of Labor that it discriminates against women by systematically paying them less than their male counterparts.
The Damore memo emerged as a symbol of Silicon Valley’s dysfunction at a time when reports of sexual harassment and abuse abounded at some of the biggest companies and venture capital firms.
In addition, Damore’s memo has become something of a litmus test for liberal and conservative views. The engineer has received support from the likes of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange and members of the alt-right (though Damore told CNN he does not support the alt-right).
Damore’s attorney, Harmeet Dhillon, is the Republican National Committee's committeewoman for California. She did not respond to a question about whether Damore was funding his suit alone or receiving support from a benefactor.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in state Superior Court in Santa Clara, Damore and Gudeman allege that they were treated like second-class citizens because of their gender and race. They said white men were booed during company-wide weekly meetings and that hiring managers were instructed to discriminate against people with conservative views.
The complaint says Google promoted all manner of lifestyles except for Damore’s.
“Google furnishes a large number of internal mailing lists catering to employees with alternative lifestyles, including furries, polygamy, transgenderism, and plurality, for the purpose of discussing sexual topics,” the suit says. “The only lifestyle that seems to not be openly discussed on Google’s internal forums is traditional heterosexual monogamy.”
Damore said he received threats from his co-workers after his memo was distributed. One of them came from a fellow engineer who emailed to say Damore was a “misogynist and a terrible human” and vowed to keep hounding him until one of them was fired, before signing off with an expletive.
Companies do not have to abide by the 1st Amendment’s free-speech guarantees, which are only aimed at the government. That gives Google the right to fire employees it deems incompatible with the company’s values, legal experts say.
1:35 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.
11:45 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional information.
2:35 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from Google.
This article was originally published at 11:20 a.m.