Google on Monday took the extraordinary step of firing an employee, James Damore, who authored a memo widely circulated within the company condemning the company’s staff diversity policies.
CEO Sundar Pichai told staff in a memo obtained by Recode that Damore had violated the Google Code of Conduct and that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”
A Google spokesperson said in a statement to VICE News that the company “can’t comment on individual employee cases.”
Damore’s manifesto, a 10-page document entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” that was first reported on over the weekend, makes the case that women are less successful in Silicon Valley because of inherent biological differences from men.
“We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology that can irreparably harm Google,” Damore wrote.
Google employees pored over Damore’s memo in internal message boards, eventually leaking it to the press. Some employees expressed fear that they would start receiving threats from far-right activists online, as alt-right figures like the blogger Vox Day began to pick up on the story. One Google employee told VICE News that they had expected the firing once “coworkers started talking about MAGA threats” on the Friday that the manifesto went out.
“I wanted [this to happen] since Friday. Purge the rest of the white weirdos while you’re at it, Sundar,” the employee said.
Damore’s manifesto and his firing are just the latest episode in a broad fight over culture, gender, and race that have enveloped Silicon Valley and the platforms it operates over the last few years. An ongoing corporate culture scandal at Uber has already forced the exit of its CEO and imperils its business future, and services like Facebook, Twitter, and Google-owned YouTube have struggled to manage abuse and harassment.
In this instance, it appears the pressure got to Google. Ex-Google engineer Erica Baker, who has criticized her former employer for how it treats women and minorities, called for his firing in a CNN interview earlier on Monday.
In other areas, the gap between employee demands and corporate practice remains. Earlier this year, employees confronted Google executives over their perceived lack of action in response to Donald Trump’s immigration-related executive orders. In mid-June, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, attended a summit on technology with other industry leaders at the White House.