James Damore sues Google for discriminating against white men

The fired engineer says the tech giant uses "illegal hiring quotas" to fill its staff with women and minority candidates.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

Ex-Google engineer James Damore is suing the company for discriminating against white male employees.

Dhillon Law Group

The ex-Google employee who became known for writing a controversial 3,300-word memo that argued the gender gap in tech is largely due to women and men being "biologically" different, is suing the search giant for discriminating against white men.

James Damore, who was fired by Google after writing the memo, said the company mistreats, punishes and terminates employees who don't adhere to the "Googley way," a set of policies around bias sensitivity, social justice and diverse hiring, according to a court filing.

"Google employs illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favored minority candidates, and openly shames managers of business units who fail to meet their quotas -- in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favored than others," reads the court filing.

"We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore's lawsuit in court," Google said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes as gender inequality and sexual discrimination has become a front-and-center national conversation. From the #MeToo movement to outrage over the lack of female keynote speakers at this week's annual Consumer Electronics Show, people are speaking out about how women and people of color are consistently marginalized in the working world. 

Silicon Valley companies have grappled over the past couple of years with how to increase workforce diversity in an industry dominated by white men and permeated with corporate cultures that seem biased against women and people of color. Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech companies now regularly release diversity reports, highlighting low percentages of women and minority employees, with few moving up the management chain.

Damore is being represented by Dhillon Law Group, which is seeking class action status on behalf of Damore, another ex-employee David Gudeman and "others similarly situated against Google for its discriminatory employment practices." The suit was filed in Santa Clara Superior Court in Northern California.

"Not only was the numerical presence of women celebrated at Google solely due to their gender, but the presence of Caucasians and males was mocked with 'boos' during company-wide weekly meetings," the filing reads. "Plaintiffs bring this action to vindicate their legal rights, and to stop Google from repeating these practices against other employees or prospective employees now, and in the future."

The suit alleges that at one weekly TGIF meeting, CFO Ruth Porat and HR chief Eileen Naughton "pointed out and shamed individual departments at Google in which women comprised less than 50% of the workforce." The pair allegedly "applauded and praised" departments where women made up more than half of the team.

The suit says Damore was "surprised by Google's position on blatantly taking gender into consideration" in the hiring process.

The lawsuit contains dozens of pages of internal email and communication at the search giant, much of it revolving around social, race and gender discussions. The plaintiff says the communications are evidence of a culture that didn't take into account the views of straight, white, conservative men. 

"Google furnishes a large number of internal mailing lists catering to employees with alternative lifestyles, including furries, polygamy, transgenderism, and plurality," the lawsuit says. "The only lifestyle that seems to not be openly discussed on Google's internal forums is traditional heterosexual monogamy."

Google was also sued by three former female employees over pay discrimination in September. The former employees allege the company paid women less than men for doing similar work. This case is also seeking class action status. 

Update, 5:58 p.m.: Adds more detail from filing.
Update, 4:26 p.m.: Adds Google comment.

Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."

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