Damore vs Google: Trial of the Century?

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

In his memo, James Damore asserts that Google is engaged in illegal discriminatory practices as part of its efforts to increase diversity. (See earlier post, In the matter of James Damore, ex-Googler.)

The image below is from the actual memo. Does Damore sound like a sexist brogrammer Neanderthal?

OKRs = Objectives and Key Results. Damore is pointing out that pro-diversity objectives may incentivize managers to discriminate by gender or race in hiring and promotion.

According to Margot Cleveland (attorney who teaches labor law at Notre Dame):

The Federalist: … Damore wrote “Google has created several discriminatory practices.” This reads of a classic case of opposition to an unlawful employment practice. (Under the case law, the practice need not actually be illegal if the employee reasonably believed it discriminatory.)

This passage may well be Google’s undoing. Damore can present a prima facie case of illegal retaliation: he engaged in protected activity by opposing several discriminatory practices, and was fired from his job. The close temporal nexus creates an inference that Google fired him because of his opposition to illegal discrimination.

… Google will counter that it fired him not because of his opposition but because of the gender stereotypes he included in the memo.

But of course the Google Brain was simultaneously using these “stereotypes” = correlations as its core revenue driver:

Professor Cleveland concludes:

… Once before a jury, Google will be hard-pressed to justify Damore’s firing because the jury will be force-fed the actual words Damore wrote, not the press’ hysterical gloss. In this regard, Google was in a no-win situation: Once the Neanderthal narrative formed, Google had no real choice but to fire Damore—which doesn’t make it right or, as Google is likely to find out soon, legal. In the meantime, the rest of the country will be treated to a nice civics refresher course and a deep-dive into federal employment and labor law.

Not to mention a deep-dive into the science of statistical / distributional group differences!

Bloomberg video interview with Damore.

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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