Former Google Engineer Fired Over Diversity Memo Files Suit -- 3rd Update

By Jack Nicas Features Dow Jones Newswires

Former Google female employees last week sued the company for allegedly discriminating against women. On Monday, former male employees sued Google for allegedly discriminating against conservative white men.

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The dueling lawsuits illustrate the increasing tensions over differences in how men and women are treated in the workplace, an issue that has exploded as revelations of inequality and sexual harassment have rocked industries ranging from tech to entertainment to media.

The suits also show how efforts to address inequality can put employers in a difficult position.

James Damore, the former Google engineer who fueled that debate with a memo suggesting men were better suited than women for certain tech jobs, and another former Google engineer filed the lawsuit on Monday.

They allege that Google is a hostile workplace for employees with conservative views, and that the company unfairly favors women and certain minorities when hiring and promoting.

Google fired Mr. Damore in August over the memo, which criticized the company's diversity efforts, saying it violated company policy and advanced "harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

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Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said, "we look forward to defending against Mr. Damore's lawsuit in court."

Mr. Damore's suit, filed in superior court in California's Santa Clara County and seeking class-action status, comes less than a week after four former female Google employees filed an amended lawsuit, also seeking class-action status, alleging Google systematically pays and promotes men more than women.

That suit, filed in superior court in San Francisco, alleges Google considers applicants' prior compensation when setting their salaries and employee levels at Google, a practice that perpetuates "historic pay disparity between men and women, and results in men receiving higher starting salaries than women, even when those men and women are hired into the same job position." The former employees narrowed the suit after a judge dismissed their initial complaint as overly broad.

Google disagrees with the suit's allegations, a spokeswoman said. "Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no bias in these decisions," she said.

The Labor Department last year sued Google for salary data as part of a routine audit into its pay practices. An initial review of Google's 2015 pay figures "found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce," according to testimony from a Labor Department official. In July, an administrative law judge denied the Labor Department's data request. The agency has said it would continue to investigate Google.

Google has said its own analyses have shown there isn't a gender pay gap.

Google and other tech companies have touted their efforts in recent years to increase the percentages of women and minorities in their workforces. Despite those efforts, most employees and executives in Silicon Valley are still white or Asian men.

In his suit, Mr. Damore, a Google software engineer from 2013 alleges that in a March 2017 all-staff meeting, Alphabet finance chief Ruth Porat and Google human-resources chief Eileen Naughton "shamed" departments with more men than women, and praised those with more women. The executives also said Google would consider gender and ethnicity when considering who to promote, the suit alleges.

According to the suit, Google presenters at a June 2017 event titled "Diversity and Inclusion Summit" discussed how Google treated women and minorities differently in the hiring process, including by putting them "into high priority queues so that they were more likely to be hired, and hired faster."

Mr. Damore's suit also adds to allegations that the tech industry doesn't welcome conservative viewpoints, an acute issue for companies that hold immense power over public opinion with their massively popular social-media platforms, search engines and news sites.

The suit alleges some Google employees publicly criticized conservatives on internal message boards and said they had personal "blacklists" of conservative colleagues whom they would refuse to work with.

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 08, 2018 19:12 ET (00:12 GMT)