Does Google’s fired “manifesto” writer have a legal case?

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from CBSNews,

Former Google engineer James Damore is being held up as a free-speech hero by his supporters, but his dismissal by the tech giant might may be more of an ethical morass than a legal issue.

Damore is the center of a controversy over his internal memo that claims biological factors contribute to inequality in the tech sector, such as his view that women have higher “neuroticism” than men. After the memo went public, Google (GOOG) fired Damore, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai denouncing it as “advancing harmful gender stereotypes.”

Damore responded by claiming he had been “wrongfully terminated” and vowed to pursue legal action.

While it’s unclear what legal route Damore might pursue, free-speech grounds would be a stretch, given that the First Amendment provides protection only from government censorship.

Of course, employees enjoy legal protections at work, such as anti-discrimination laws for protected groups. But the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit an employer from firing a worker based on their speech, said Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project.

“As a private company, Google has the right to discipline employees for their speech or for violations of their code of conduct,” Rowland said. “But every company should use that power judiciously to avoid creating a perceived political litmus test for employment.”

In a statement to CBS News on Tuesday, Damore said he submitted a charge to the National Labor Relations Board about “how Google’s upper management is misrepresenting and shaming me in order to silence my complaints. It’s illegal to retaliate against a NLRB charge.”

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