The recent case of James Damore has raised serious issues about politics and free speech in the workplace. Damore was a Google engineer who circulated a highly controversial “anti-diversity manifesto” among his co-workers. Among other things, the manifesto claimed that the gender gap in the technology field was due to biological gender differences which made women less suited for the work. When the manifesto became public and went viral online, Google fired Damore for violating its Code of Conduct. CNBC reports that Damore compared being a conservative at Google to being gay in the 1950s. He claims he was fired for “wrong think,” and that anyone with conservative viewpoints is marginalized at Google. Google CEO Sundar Pinchai, in advising Google employees of Damore’s dismissal, issued a statement saying that,“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct.”
Politics are a particularly heated issue in current American culture. There is perhaps no point in history at which Americans have been more deeply and fundamentally divided over every possible ideological viewpoint. Foreign affairs, public policy, national security, religion, workplace equality, immigration, gender equality, and many other issues have caused physical violence to erupt between previously peaceful factions of society. How can employers maintain the peace of a healthy working environment while still respecting employee’s rights to their personal opinions?