A lawyer with the National Labor Relations Board concluded that Google’s firing of James Damore, the author of a 10-page memo arguing that the gender imbalance in the tech world had an immutable basis in biology, was legal. The conclusion, laid out in a memo, sided with Google’s argument that Damore had violated its policies against harassment and discrimination.
As reported by the New York Times, Damore’s NLRB complaint was filed before he was fired by Google last August. Damore claimed that his memo was an attempt to address a workplace issue, a category of action that includes strikes and lawsuits, and is protected from retaliation by employers.
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The NLRB memo’s author, attorney Jayme Sophir, agreed that “much of” Damore’s missive was likely protected, but found that portions of it that were discriminatory provided legal justification for Google’s firing of him. “Employers have a strong interest in promoting diversity and encouraging employees across diverse demographic groups to thrive in their workplaces,” the decision read in part. “In furtherance of these legitimate interests, employers must be permitted to ‘nip in the bud’ the kinds of employee conduct that could lead to a ‘hostile workplace’”.
The evidence for the business and economic benefits of pro-diversity policies is strong. In one 2015 study, McKinsey found that for every 10% increase in the gender diversity of U.K. companies’ leadership teams, earnings rose a striking 3.5%.
The NLRB memo was issued on Jan. 16 but was not made public until last Thursday. It recommends dismissing Damore’s complaint, but the complaint had already been withdrawn by Damore and his legal team. Damore’s legal team has said they will now focus on a lawsuit against Google filed in early January.