by Chris White
Google acknowledged nixing an internal racial justice program Wednesday, and some employees believe the company did it fearing lawsuits from “right-wing employees,” according to an NBC News report.
The company ended Sojourn in 2019, claiming the program designed to teach about racial injustice was too difficult to expand beyond the United States, NBC News reported Wednesday. Current and former employees, however, told NBC the program ended because Google feared backlash in the wake of former software engineer James Damore’s 2018 lawsuit that accused the company of ideological discrimination.
“One of the major motivations for cutting Sojourn is that the company doesn’t want to be seen as anti-conservative,” one Google employee told NBC in an interview after asking for anonymity for fear of reprisal for talking to the media. “It does not want to invite lawsuits or claims by right-wing white employees about Google discriminating against them.”
Damore was fired in 2017 for internally publishing a memo outlining his views on gender differences and how they affect females in the tech industry. The memo, which was leaked to the media, also described Damore’s view that there is a lack of freedom to express personal opinions at Google.
Damore asked the court on May 8 to dismiss his lawsuit after entering into a written agreement with Google. Three other people who applied for jobs at Google-affiliated companies joined the lawsuit, alleging they were unduly turned down due to diversity hiring quotas.
Google’s chief diversity officer Melonie Parker disputed the allegations, telling NBC that, “We’re really maturing our programs to make sure we’re building our capability.”
Still, employees who worked on diversity training programs throughout 2019 were transferred to other projects, according to the current and former employees cited by NBC. The employees said that other training programs like Google’s DEI for Managers and Allyship 101 have similarly been cut, noting that discussing diversity became taboo, too.
“In 2018, after all the Damore stuff, the higher-ups stopped saying the word diversity and were instead saying D&I, as in D ampersand I,” one current employee told NBC, referring to an acronym for diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Parker denied that employee’s allegation.
“Google has never shied away from using the word diversity. We have always used that word. We are not directing anyone not to use this word anymore,” she said.
Some reports indicate that Google’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies include discussion about transgender issues.
Google’s anti-harassment training material contains instructions on the use of preferred pronouns, including ones for individuals who believe they are non-binary, the Daily Caller reported in July 2019. The materials instructed Google employees to, “Read the following dialogue” and flag “any harassment, discrimination, or other inappropriate conduct.”
Neither Google nor Damore attorney Harmeet Dhillon responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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Chris White is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo by Google.