An ex-Google engineer has sued his former employer, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated as a result of expressing his politically liberal opinions—which included opposing harassment and white supremacy—on internal message boards.
According to his lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in state court in San Francisco, Tim Chevalier served as a site reliability engineer from December 2015 until November 2017.
Chevalier, who identifies himself as a “disabled, queer, and transgender” man, routinely spoke out in favor of minority and traditionally underprivileged rights—in particular to counter the opinions offered up by another then-colleague, James Damore.
Last year, Damore argued that due to their biological differences, women may not be suited for leadership. In August 2017, Damore was fired from Google, and he recently lost his filing at the National Labor Relations Board.
By contrast, in September 2016, Chevalier wrote:
In a culture where it’s common to respond to diversity initiatives with ‘we can’t lower the bar’, implying a baseline assumption that women, non-binary people, and men of color are incompetent, it’s equally important that we don’t do the reverse: that we don’t insist on white male competence even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.
Not long after, when Chevalier’s newly-assigned manager, Peter Dahl, criticized his subordinate for “too much ‘social activism,’” despite the fact that Chevalier was rewarded with multiple “peer bonuses” for his internal commentary.
However, as months passed and friction continued between himself and his superiors, Chevalier also believed that others, including a human resources official, were dismissive of his remarks and critiques, which ultimately lead to his dismissal.
As the lawsuit continues:
Through Chevalier’s conversations with his manager and Human Resources, he learned that Google defines appropriate workplace speech by the standard of what someone with a cisgender, heterosexual, white, male, upper-middle-class background would say. In truth, Google’s promise to allow its employees to freely speak their minds only applies to people who represent the majority viewpoint and use the majority’s rhetoric.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano emailed Ars to say that "lively debate" is an "important part" of company culture.
"But like any workplace, that doesn't mean anything goes," she wrote. "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.”
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