Alphabet Inc.â€™s Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web companyâ€™s diversity policies, creating a firestorm across Silicon Valley.
James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an email, saying that he had been fired for â€œperpetuating gender stereotypes.â€ He said heâ€™s â€œcurrently exploring all possible legal remedies.â€
Business Insider predicts that Mr. Damore will find no legal remedy.
The problem is that US labor law is well-settled in this area: In the vast majority of US states, employees have almost no rights to free speech at work. …
The First Amendment to the US Constitution prevents the government from restricting your speech. It doesn’t restrict your employer from controlling your speech when you are at work. As the government is not involved in this case, Damore is already on shaky ground if he files a lawsuit arguing a free speech case.
More importantly, Damore’s speech has not been restricted. He can continue to express his opinion. Indeed, his opinion has already been published far more widely than he can have hoped. His speech is on steroids right now! His legal problem is that he does not have a constitutional right to a job at Google. If he is an “at-will” employee â€” i.e. an ordinary employee not governed by a special contract, like a film star might have â€” then Google has every right to demand that he leave.
You can read a lengthy legal paper on this issue by Prof. Eugene Volokh, of the UCLA Law School, here. It can be summed up in one paragraph:
“Of course, employee speech can always be restricted by private employers, who are not bound by the First Amendment. This cannot, however, authorize greater restrictions by the government. A householder is entitled to kick out dinner guests who say certain things. A commercial landlord can refuse to rent to tenants who put up certain posters. A newspaper publisher can refuse to publish articles with which he disagrees. A private university may restrict what its faculty say in class, or even what its students say on campus. Speech on private property can generally be controlled by the private property owner.
As Google Site Reliability Manager Paul Cowan warned internally at Google â€” his posts were screengrabbed by Breitbart â€” “freedom of speech is the right to freely express an opinion. It is most assuredly not the right to express an opinion with freedom from the consequences.”
But he does have at least two job offers, Heavy reports:
Damore also has a couple job offers to consider. One offer came from Gab, a company founded in 2016 that says it is â€œan ad-free social network for creators who believe in free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online.â€ It has become popular among those in the alt right, including some who have been banned from Twitter.
And Wikileaksâ€™ Julian Assange tweeted Tuesday, â€œCensorship is for losers. @WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore.
This is a real pain in the ass. I use Chrome all the time, and now I have to switch to Safari or Opera. I guess I’ll also soon find out if Duck Duck Go is any good as a search engine.