A lawsuit that made a big bang in Silicon Valley two years ago with allegations of mistreatment of politically conservative tech workers came to a quiet end last week.
Former Google engineer James Damore and three other men who worked for or applied for jobs at the Alphabet Inc. unit asked a court to dismiss their lawsuit. Their written request was joined by Google.
A lawyer for the men, Harmeet Dhillon, said they’re prohibited as part of their agreement with Google from saying anything beyond what’s in Thursday’s court filing. Google declined to comment.
Damore was fired from Google in 2017 after he wrote a memo arguing that innate differences between the sexes might explain why women are underrepresented at the internet giant and other tech companies. He sued the company the following year, alleging that it allows discrimination against conservative white men.
The lawsuit made him the darling of the alt-right movement and conservative media and was joined by other men with similar grievances, even as legal experts said Damore would have a hard time winning redemption in court.
In 2018, Damore suffered a setback when a National Labor Relations Board attorney concluded the engineer’s use of biological stereotypes in his widely circulated memo was offensive enough to cause disruption in the workplace, making his firing lawful.
After Damore sued Google in state court in San Jose, he and another former Google employee were shunted into private arbitration, as required by their employment contract. Meanwhile, a judge opined it wouldn’t be easy for two fellow plaintiffs to prevail on their “novel” theory that Google is biased against “political conservatives” — a term the company argued was too vague to support a class-action suit.
Still, Damore’s lawyer said not to underestimate the lawsuit’s impact. Because of it, companies in Silicon Valley and beyond have instituted workplace rules designed to protect employees with alternative viewpoints and prevent bullying, Dhillon said.
She also said Google has changed its policy of barring employees from publicly discussing working conditions and the size of their salaries.
Conversely, in August Google posted internal rules that discourage employees from debating politics, a shift away from the company’s famously open culture.
Dhillon said she doubted what she describes as Google’s anti-conservative sentiment has changed.
“I think the bullies pretty much run the shop over there,” she said. “Google has the most brutal ‘Lord of the Flies’ workplace for people who don’t fit it.”
–With assistance from Mark Bergen
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