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Former Googler: I was fired for comments on 'white male privilege'

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Things aren’t going well for Google’s workplace culture.
Image: George Rose/Getty Images

Google is now facing a new lawsuit over diversity, but from the opposite side of the one that you’ve probably heard about. On Thursday, Gizmodo reported that former Google employee Tim Chevalier is suing Google for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination.

Chevalier’s lawsuit alleges he was fired for calling out racism and sexism in internal Google forums, and that his views were targeted in part on the basis of his identity as transgender, queer, and disabled. In particular, he spoke out about white male privilege, in response to James Damore’s “anti-diversity” memo in which Damore made the case that women may have less preference and aptitude for engineering jobs for biological reasons. 

James Damore is also currently suing Google for wrongful termination and discrimination — specifically, against conservatives and white men. Damore and Chevalier may be ideological opposites, but controversy stoked by conversation in Google’s forums have sparked similar causes of action that’s left Google embroiled in legal hotwater and a cultural flame war on all sides.

Chevalier’s lawsuit says that when he began at Google in 2015, Google’s workforce was largely “homogenous,” composed “overwhelmingly” of cisgender white men — and that “its workplace culture reflected their views.” The lawsuit says Chevalier advocated for the rights of women and minorities in order to push back on the online bullying he regularly witnessed on Google’s forums, in order to make Google a more habitable place for him, as well as other minorities. 

However, starting in September 2016, Chevalier’s manager started criticizing him for his “social activism.” Even at one point saying “that wasn’t what we hired you for.” Chevalier subsequently complained, and was encouraged to consider leaving and told that “working at Google was not for everyone.” His request to transfer to a new team was also denied.

Things came to a head after the release of the Damore memo. Per the lawsuit, Chevalier called Damore’s views misogynistic, and quoted a passage from a book that used the phrase “white boys” and described white male privilege. Google found memes he posted on Google’s internal meme generator, Memegen, to be discriminatory against white men. Google also found a comment he made regarding Republicans’ inability to follow community guidelines to be discriminatory. Google fired Chevalier in November 2017, specifically citing these social media posts, which had been discussed on a previous call with HR, as the cause for termination.

It turns out that Chevalier isn’t the only employee who has been disciplined for speaking out against instances of white supremacy, sexism, and homophobia on the Google intranet. Gizmodo reports that at least three other employees were disciplined by HR for comments that “Google allegedly deemed discriminatory toward white men.”

Google is still facing a class action lawsuit spearheaded by James Damore, who Google fired after his memo — in which he claims discrimination on the basis of being a conservative white man — went viral. Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board, which Damore also petitioned for wrongful termination, found that Google was within their rights when they fired Damore.

In response to the lawsuit, Gina Scigliano, Google spokeswoman told Mashable in a statement: 

An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace, that doesn’t mean anything goes. All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited. This is a very standard expectation that most employers have of their employees. The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.

For now, Google remains legally challenged and internally mired in the same culture war that’s engulfed much of the country.

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