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Does a fired Google employee have a discrimination case or not?

A Google employee made national headlines after writing an anti-diversity memo that essentially stated, among other things, that women were biologically unsuited to the tech industry.

He was terminated rather quickly for pushing gender stereotypes and violating a company code of conduct that prohibits the fostering of discrimination.

Ironically enough, the fired employee and his supporters believe that his firing was actually for discrimination for expressing what amounts to nothing more than a conservative opinion. What others are calling "outmoded and sexist" viewpoints that did nothing but disrupt the workplace and make female tech employees feel belittled and uncomfortable, the employee and his supporters say are simply an acknowledgment that women and men are biologically different and therefore suited to different things.

Was the employee discriminated against and wrongfully terminated from his position simply for being a white male with conservative views about gender and gender roles?

While some pundits have said that he does, most experts feel that there's nothing about the case that translates into discrimination against the young man at its center:

  • His memo was essentially his personal opinion and didn't serve any work-related purpose except to pass it on to others. He was not trying to foster a discussion about workplace conditions with other employees, organizing a union or participating in any "concerted activities" aimed at bettering the workplace that would be protected under federal law.
  • Google's code of conduct can't really be construed as prohibiting either free speech or the employee's political expression -- since it applies only to speech (or written memos) inside the workplace -- which is reasonable in order to protect the employer's interests in keeping a conflict-free workplace where all employees can feel equal.
  • Some supporters claim the employee was fired simply for being white and male and expressing a white male's opinions. While firing someone based on his or her race or gender is prohibited, there's no indication that race and gender were a factor in Google's decision.

Cases like this illustrate why it's important for employees to understand what is and what isn't protected speech -- because there are times your employer can legally fire you for saying what you think -- especially if it violates an existing code of conduct and disrupts the workplace or promotes discrimination.

However, if you believe you have a legitimate discrimination or wrongful termination case, an attorney can provide guidance and advice.

Source: HuffPost, "Google Anti-Diversity Employee Has No Case," Noah Baron, Contributor Attorney, Aug. 16, 2017

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