Google has reportedly fired one of its employees, James Damore, who made headlines by posting a controversial anti-diversity manifesto over the weekend. Damore confirmed to several media outlets, including Brietbart, Wired and Bloomberg that he was fired for "perpetuating gender stereotypes".
Damore told New York Times that he would "likely be pursuing legal action" against Google. "I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does," Damore said.
The 28-year-old had been working at the company since 2013 after achieving a PhD in systems biology from Harvard University, according to his social media profiles.
Damore also said that before he was fired he filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that Google's senior management was "misrepresenting and shaming me in order to silence my complaints".
The manifesto has reportedly caused major upheaval among Google's staff. Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, cut short his vacation to rush back to the tech giant's Mountain View HQ to deal with the fallout.
"Our words matter," Pichai wrote in an internal memo to employees, first reported by Recode. "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," Pichai said, adding that Damore's manifesto had "crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.
"The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn't have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being 'agreeable' rather than 'assertive,' showing a 'lower stress tolerance,' or being 'neurotic'," Pichai said in the memo.
According to reports, since Damore's manifesto went viral, sparking outrage both within the firm and among the wider tech community, the tech giant's top executives have reportedly been scrambling to figure out how to handle the situation.
Nicole Sanchez, the recently departed head of diversity at GitHub, says she understands the tension. "I guarantee this is the struggle they have inside the company: people who want to come out really strong against this manifesto and say there isn't a place for this at Google," she told Wired, while still maintaining "that an opinion shouldn't jeopardize your job".
"How do we ride that line that by law you are entitled to your opinions and write whatever you want but the culture we are trying to build does not support these ideas?" says Sanchez. "What you end up getting when something finally comes out is such a compromise, a Frankenstein monster of a statement. Everyone got what they wanted and no one got everything they wanted."