Google fires employee behind anti-diversity memo

The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 August 2017

Google fires employee behind anti-diversity memo

Internet giant Google has fired the male engineer at the center of an uproar in Silicon Valley over the past week after he authored an internal memo asserting there are biological causes behind gender inequality in the tech industry.
James Damore, the engineer who wrote the memo, confirmed his dismissal, saying in an e-mail to Reuters on Monday that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
Damore said he was exploring all possible legal remedies, and that before being fired, he had submitted a charge to the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Google upper management of trying to shame him into silence.
“It’s illegal to retaliate against an NLRB charge,” he wrote in the e-mail.
Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc. based in Mountain View, California, said it could not talk about individual employee cases.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told employees in a note on Monday that portions of the anti-diversity memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” according to a copy of the note seen by Reuters.
It was not immediately clear what legal authority Damore could try to invoke. Non-union or “at will” employees, such as most tech workers, can be fired in the United States for a wide array of reasons that have nothing to do with performance.
The US National Labor Relations Act guarantees workers, whether they are in a union or not, the right to engage in “concerted activities” for their “mutual aid or protection.”
Damore, though, would likely face an uphill fight to seek that protection based on his memo, said Alison Morantz, a Stanford University law professor with expertise in labor law.
“It’s going to be a hard sell that this activity was either concerted or for mutual aid or protection, rather than simply venting or pitting one group of workers against the others, which does not sound very mutual,” Morantz said.
Debate over the treatment of women in the male-dominated tech industry has raged for months. Claims of persistent sexual harassment in the ranks of Uber Technologies Inc. and of several venture capital firms led to management shakeups.
Management at the largest tech firms, including Google, have publicly committed to diversifying their workforces, although the percentage of women in engineering and management roles remains low at many companies.
The US Department of Labor is investigating whether Google has unlawfully paid women less than men. The company has denied the charges.
Damore asserted in his 3,000-word document that circulated inside the company last week that “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture” which prevented honest discussion of diversity.
The engineer, who has a doctoral degree in systems biology from Harvard University, according to his LinkedIn page, attacked the idea that gender diversity should be a goal.
“The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and ... these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” Damore wrote in the memo.
He quickly received support in conservative media outlets. On Breitbart News, once run by Steve Bannon, now chief strategist to President Donald Trump, commentators overnight discussed whether to boycott Google and switch to services such as Microsoft Corp’s Bing.
Google’s vice president of diversity, Danielle Brown, sent a memo in response to the furor over the weekend, saying the engineer’s essay “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.”


Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

Updated 30 min 28 sec ago

Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

  • Lithuania reported on Friday its first confirmed case of coronavirus
  • Nigeria on Friday announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa

VILNIUS: Lithuania reported on Friday its first confirmed case of coronavirus, the government said, as the disease spreads rapidly worldwide.
Hopes that the virus would be contained to China vanished, with countries beginning to stockpile medical equipment and investors taking flight in expectation of a global recession.

New Zealand's health ministry on Friday also confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus in a person who recently returned from Iran.

Belarus registered the first case of coronavirus infection in the country, Russian news agency TASS reported, citing the Belarussian Ministry of Healthcare.
"We would like to inform you that February 27 tests conducted at the Republican Scientific and Practical Center of epidemiology and microbiology showed the presence of coronavirus 2019-nCoV in one of the students from Iran," TASS quoted the ministry.

In Greece, two new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three.
The health ministry said one of the cases concerned a relative of a 38 year old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case reported in Greece. The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy.
Meanwhile, Nigeria announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.
The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan earlier this week, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement on Twitter.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” Ehanire said.
Italy has become a hotbed of infection in recent days, with the largest outbreak in Europe.
But the low number of cases across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak, has puzzled health specialists.