Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Why I'm suing Google (unobtainabol.com)
73 points by mpweiher 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

> Then, shortly after the 2016 election, Gudeman expressed skepticism toward a Muslim colleague who wrote on an employee forum that he was “someone already targeted by the FBI (including at work) for being a Muslim.” Gudeman then allegedly investigated his colleague’s claim and suggested that, in the filing’s words, “something interesting” about a recent trip to Pakistan could explain why he was being targeted. The filing states that Google then fired Gudeman for accusing his colleague of terrorism based on religion.


Given how absurdly twisted and misrepresented the Damore memo itself has been in the media (calling it anti-diversity when it was pro-diversity, posting it but silently removing links to sources, stating that it says women are bad at engineering when it actually said they're statistically less likely to be interested in engineering, and many many other lies), everything reported in these sources should be taken with a grain of salt.

It's perfectly likely that these stories are just not true, or are at least a highly interpreted version of what happened. Only primary sources are trustworthy; show me the chat logs and emails.

The Damore memo was anti-diversity, under the stated guise of being pro-diversity. It was a criticism of Google's policies to fight social biases and promote diversity in hiring, using cherry-picked and misrepresented evidence. (e: Yes, I've read it several times for those who question it)

Like most news cycles though, the media from all sides of the spectrum were able to find something in it to get people outraged, drive clicks, gain eyeballs, etc.

> The Damore memo was anti-diversity, under the stated guise of being pro-diversity.

It was anti-pro-diversity policies (at least the existing ones). That doesn't entail it was anti-diversity. For instance, if I prove that diversity policies are completely ineffective and say we should do away with them, that doesn't make me anti-diversity except to people interested in token PR efforts rather than real change.

> It was a criticism of Google's policies to fight social biases and promote diversity in hiring, using cherry-picked and misrepresented evidence.

Not really. Did you actually read the memo?

Following your hypothetical: But if you didn't prove that diversity policies are ineffective and still say we should do away with them, that does make you anti-diversity, to most rational, logical people.

Before you inevitably get further into semantics and burden of proof, you should read a breakdown of how Damore failed to prove his memo's claims, from the perspective of an Evolutionary Biologist:


Please, Sadedin responded to a strawman, not Damore's actual argument. I could point out every mistake she made in interpretation, but it's frankly not worth my time doing this again. I'll just say that plenty of scientists with equivalent credentials agree that Damore's evidence was sufficient and used more or less correctly, for example [1].

Most of the people who disagree don't even understand the terminology Damore employed, and instead project their own inflammatory interpretations of scientific terms (such as various personality traits from the literature, like "agreeableness").

Finally, I will also note that we can even throw out any arguments about the evidence and quite easily prove mathematically that Google's hiring practices aren't biased and the methods will necessarily be ineffective at attracting more women: women comprise about 19% of Google employees. Women comprise around 20-21% of computer science graduates. Is Google expected to conjure women from the aether so that their female ratio somehow supercedes the ratio of women in the entire pool of possible applicants?

Even if Google were to achieve a better than possible ratio, they'd just be making the ratio at other companies worse. We'd all be hailing Google as some pinnacle of modernity and diversity, and we'd scold the rest of the industry for not following suit. It's complete bullshit theatre.

The only real change can happen in the halls of post-secondary education, or even earlier. Most of these arguments about culture at companies driving women away is smoke and mirrors. The predictions of such theories simply can't explain the data.

Women fought long and hard to get into achieve parity in plenty of other fields that were way more of an old boys' club than programming, like medicine and law. We're to believe that scores of women are so intimidated by nerds with keyboards that they're running away from STEM back in first and second year college? This narrative of the gender gap in STEM is total bull.

> But if you didn't prove that diversity policies are ineffective and still say we should do away with them, that does make you anti-diversity, to most rational, logical people.

Except you're clearly not even open to the possibility that Damore pointed out, that there's some intrinsic factor driving interest in STEM. Not ability, as Sadedin's strawman argued against, but interest. I suggest reading [2] for an overview of the evidence for the "things vs people" theory that can explain gender differences in interest.

[1] http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/google-memo-four-scientists-...

[2] http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger...

Sadedin quotes Damore directly and addresses his argument directly.

I get that you support and want to make your own personal argument in for Damore's memo, but if you would read the Sadedin's criticism of Damore's memo, rather than dismissing it with an ad hom attack, you would see that the points you and Quillette are raising are addressed.

You can't ask me, "Did you actually read the memo?" and then make excuses to not read an expert's criticism. It smacks of confirmation bias.

> Sadedin quotes Damore directly and addresses his argument, point by point.

No she does not. I read Sadedin's response when this Damore thing blew up. Sadedin's mistakes are so blindingly obvious that I can't even... Here's Sadedin quoting Damore and responding to it:

> Damore: I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

> Sadedin: At what point did we jump from talking about personalities to abilities? It’s a massive leap to conclude that a slight difference in average personality must undermine women’s professional abilities in software engineering.

Except Damore didn't say anything of the sort. Damore literally said nothing about ability in his entire memo except this one off-hand remark that some differences in ability might exist due to biology, and Sadedin spends half her text attempting to debunk something Damore didn't even claim.

Sadedin clearly has an axe to grind, and Damore's memo was a convenient outlet. Sadedin's reply is riddled with exactly this sort of pattern, building up a nice Damore strawman and easily knocking it down.

And now I suggest you read the other expert's opinion that I linked in my previous comment, as he provides an overview of over 4 decades of cross-cultural research on gender differences which actually explains the data we have, rather than some bizarre conspiracy theory of nationwide sexism, oh but not everywhere, just in these specific fields for no reason whatsoever.

I'm not even going to bother responding to any more uninformed comments on this topic. You believe what you like, but if you're interested in evidence-based measures to improve gender disparity in STEM, then inform yourself. If you just want to wage some gender holy war, then I'm not interested in hearing about it.

>Except Damore didn't say anything of the sort.

Damore did right here: (emphasis added)

> I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.

This is a key misrepresentation of the evidence, as it is claimed, right here by Damore. Whether or not it's claimed multiple times in the memo, as you say, does not mean Damore does not make the claim. It is one point of many that is addressed directly by Sadedin.

Again, your attempt to minimize Damore's fallacious statement, as well as unwillingness to continue a discussion you started in lieu of new information you find disagreeable, is confirmation bias.

Except it's not a misrepresentation at all. It's well known that men and women have different abilities. And note how Damore said such differences may contribute, not do. So where's the misrepresentation exactly? Also, you're misusing "fallacious". Damore's argument wouldn't be fallacious if it were factually incorrect.

Furthermore, the straw man I referred to is that she took his brief mention of possible difference in abilities as an implication that Damore was saying they would adversely affect female success in engineering. He doesn't say that anywhere. She's putting words in his mouth instead of making a charitable reading like one should in any debate. Considering Damore's argument doesn't in any way depend on differences in ability, what do you think the charitable reading is?

You're arguing exactly the same straw man as Sadedin. Damore's whole argument does not depend on this one statement, even if it were untrue. Many more of Sadedin's rebuttals make exactly the same mistake and I'm not going to rehash this whole thing again.

I also notice that you've now repeatedly ignored the other experts I've cited in preference to one that agrees with your chosen narrative. I suggest exposing yourself to a wider variety of opinions and data.

If feels truly odd read you saying "he didn't say it!" and the saying "but it's true!"

It feels like you've gotten yourself a little lost. My guess is that you are indeed suffering from systemic confirmation bias.

Again, Sadedin covers this. Men and women differ in motor skills, not abilities that make them good executives, software engineers, upper level management, etc., which Damore isclaiming. You're ignoring the facts here (confirmation bias).

Also, a moment ago you were saying Damore doesn't make this claim, now you're defending it? Which is it?

> Not really. Did you actually read the memo?

The sentence immediately following your quote:

> (e: Yes, I've read it several times for those who question it)

Notice how that's an edit.


Have you read his memo? It seemed very mild and grounded in reason to me.

Your claim that it was secretly anti-diversity is a bit infuriating as Damore goes to great pains to state he is in favor of diversity, and part of his memo is about how Google can do a better job of attracting women. Watching you, and others, twist this into "secretly he doesn't believe anything he wrote, but actually thinks the exact opposite" and not even bother offering evidence of this, let's be generous and call it an "interpretation", like I said - it's infuriating.

Damore's mistake was believing Google's PR, that it cared about diversity or rational discussion. Google doesn't care about diversity, they care about appearing to care about diversity. Thus, when Damore's memo is internal it can be discussed, but when made public he must be terminated.

Google is demonstrably insufficiently diverse, when an employee offers some thoughts based on modern science, to improve diversity, the press howls and Google terminates him. Google wants people to think it's a good corporation, and they are quite willing to abandon good principles to pursue that. It's a shame you've been fooled by their corporatist double speak and lazy media.

It attacked diversity policies, which form the reason for power for a great many Google managers, and one of the only ways to climb the corporate ladder at Google that aren't to build a new product (which is the incredibly hard way. Maybe one in 1000 to one in 10000 Googlers does that).

These people see these reactions as only fair. After all, this memo attacked their careers, so they attacked the author of the memo. Doubly so, of course, when it turned out to be well-written, effective, and, crucially, led many people to question the reason for the policies that form the basis of many "careers" (sorry "initiatives" I hear is the current term) at Google. I've heard similar stories of this happening at many companies.

Google is just doing what every other company is doing. Managers are directly rewarded or punished for diversity, but (at the moment) also for effectiveness. So they give out the jobs that don't matter exclusively to women. And of course management is enabling this. The cleaning staff. Security. There are many kinds of women-only internships. HR. Finance. Does this result in equality ? No, of course not, it results in antagonism, resentment as careers are destroyed because the person behind the career is the "wrong" gender, and to a lesser extent color, religion, ... (and, I would like to point out, as can be clearly seen in any SV company: minorities are racist too. There are teams in every company that "just happen" to be young Japanese males. Indian females with a few males among them that are behaving VERY obediently. Pakistani males. And so on. Zero diversity in those teams, and from the stories I hear, not because people don't join those teams)

The real thing diversity wants to achieve (imho), a more reasonable, perhaps even equal proportion in the various departments like engineering, is something that may happen over, well, let's be optimistic and say between half a generation and a generation, 15 to 30 years (from what base I don't know, because it still isn't the case at all that women and men have equal proportions in university CS).

Those are the rules many higher ups live by. You attack me, I attack you. Issue is that a LOT of people in the lower echelons don't know what might attack them. Diversity efforts are at the moment idiotic : it is not possible to recruit 50% women engineers from a pool that is 95% male, so the stated result is impossible to achieve and to get better scores they must cheat. Pointing this out, in a way that becomes popular, is an attack against the careers of higher ups and will result in very high up management demanding your dismissal.

> The Damore memo was anti-diversity

How so? I've read it; but maybe my own biases prevent me from seeing an "anti-diversity" theme.

I've have read the mischaracterizations of it online, for example:

> "circulating a memo discussing the biological inferiority of his female colleagues" [1]

Yet, reading it, I see absolutely no claim in the memo that supports that idea.

1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/08/google...

The quote you're looking for is "I’m simply stating that the distribution of ... abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes."

Those three dots are doing a lot of work.

Having incurred the high karmic cost of breaking Godwin’s Law anyway, I might as well go ahead and quote Hitler: ”I will bring down democracy by democratic means!”. The ultimate, and most despicable, form of diagonalization I can think of.

Doing amateur counter terrorism investigations is never a good idea I suspect that he may have broken some internal security policies at google by doing so which may have lead to the firing or increased the severity of the offence he was fired for.

Reading the complaint.. all I can think: why is this in the workplace? Politics is a mess--just generally, no matter which side you're on... It amazes me that anyone would look at our politics and think: let's bring this dispute into our company. It's just asking for trouble.

I 100% agree with you, and have been asking the same question myself. You don't get ahead in your career by arguing politics on misc lists inside your company, but you sure can hurt it. Save that for reddit/Twitter/anything else outside of work.

If not the workplace, where else?

In their private discussions with their friends and family in their own personal time.

What if the politics in question concern work? I'd love to live in the society you (apparently) live in where work and the rest of reality apparently don't interact with each other at all.

The only overlap between politics and work is hiring and work-related policies (as far as your viewpoint on, for example, maternity leave is a political). Companies should have a process of developing and refining policies, and certainly politics may come up during the discussion of those policies.. but it should end when the policies are written and management has made a decision. If that policy is illegal, certainly go talk to HR about it or pursue a legal option. But there's no need to have this constant political fight within a company between employees.

Note, this hiring and work-related discussion is very different than what's going on in google. They have mailing lists for everything from conservatives, liberty (liberal), transgenderism, furries, polygamy, etc. I would be very interested in hearing how polygamy is work related.

Can't say I understand what you're suggesting. Even without mailing lists people will talk about what they want to, by whatever means.

Are you saying the workplace should censor and/or prohibit anything not work related? Your opinion of what work should be sounds pretty draconian, and is political, sure enough.

Sure, people will talk, but a company does not have to facilitate it or encourage it.

These are _professional_ relationships. Very different than your personal relationships. People should understand that, and restrain themselves from bringing personal matters into the workplace.

Like everything in work you can't do it if it interferes with your professional relationships. If it's necessary for doing your job that's a different story but that's rarely actually the case.

For the people who work 80 hours just to prove they are passionate, they don't have much friends outside and spend too little time with familly.

Why was thus downvoted? People in these cool companies are expected to work a lot, the question of your passion is primary reason and the rest is logical consequence.

People who work that much have only workplace to discuss things.

Holy crap, have we all gotten so lonely that the only place we can imagine talking to people is at work? Did you know you can talk about stuff on the internet?

> Gudeman also stated in response to another Google employee that “[i]f you truly think Trump is anything like a Nazi or Isis[sic], or wants to hurt gays, women or the disabled, thenyou are so badly out of touch it borders on delusional. If you don’t truly believe those things but aresaying them anyway then shame on you for trying to stir up fear and hatred.

Yes, well then.

Are you suggesting Trump is like Nazis or ISIS? Can you point out Trump's most Nazi/ISIS like action?

Please don't take this thread further into political hell. At least the parent comment had some connection to the topic, not that it said anything substantive. Going full un-hinge is, to quote my son when he was little, "what we not do".

> or wants to hurt gays, women or the disabled

He is on tape saying he hurts women. WTF else do you want?

He's on tape saying that women will let you do anything when you're rich and famous. That's certainly a crude thing to say, and an unhelpful attitude toward women. However, you may not be aware of this, but both the Nazis and ISIS did, and said, things that were far worse.

Is it so much to ask that you restrict yourself to saying things that are true? If you said that "Donald Trump has repeatedly said things which are contrary to the ideal of treating men and women as equal" then you'd be stating a simple and defensible fact. When you go to extreme and perverse lengths, like equating the former with "Trump is like a Nazi" then you're just willfully engaging in empty partisan rhetoric which is obviously untrue. Ironically, that's a claim that could be made against Trump. The hysterical Trump critics aren't so far from Trump himself.

>However, you may not be aware of this, but both the Nazis and ISIS did, and said, things that were far worse.

I was not aware of this. Thanks.

Do people no longer distinguish between "bad" and "atrocity"? Like seriously, comparing Trump to ISIS or Hitler is absurd hyperbole.

We can agree he has some fascist tendencies, but it's a big step from there to equating him with one of the worst fascists of all time responsible for spearheading a genocide, or to a group that openly wants to conquer the world and subjugate more than half of humanity. If you can't acknowledge these comparisons are hyperbole, then I can't help you.

If we fall into the trap of conditional probability (“this person is a member of such-and-such-category, therefore this-is-frivolous-because-he-doesn't-need ...) we are committing precisely the kind of prejudiced stereotyping that diversity is supposed to avoid. It's quite telling that conditional probability is one of the hallmarks of rational thought.

Let's let them have their minutes in court, if a court considers their complaint to have merit. That's the whole point, isn't it? No point tossing out two cents’ worth around and about.

Exactly so.

Having read the "Damore memo" and knowing it is not even a good rehash of bad arguments, and having seen this silly attempt at a gotcha-flip of actual grievances, (not to mention some apparently sincere whining about oppression from a position of dominance), I have little doubt about where it will end up, but even whiny revanchists deserve their day in court.

Literally ”to settle it” once and for all.

Look at this guys performance review information in the lawsuit and judge for yourself if you think he was only let go because of his comments.

Damore has a much stronger case without this guy.

Can you link this information? I had not known the performance reviews were made public.

From the complaint [1]:

> Damore was diligent and loyal, and received substantial praise for the quality of his work. Damore received the highest possible rating twice, including in his most recent performance review, and consistently received high performance ratings, placing him in the top few percentile of Google employees. Throughout the course of his employment with Google, Damore received approximately eight performance bonuses, the most recent of which was approximately 20% of his annual salary. Damore also received stock bonuses from the Google amounting to approximately $150,000 per year.

> On or around April, 2017, a few months after he started working with his new team, the Google employee’s reviewing manager stated in a written performance review, “[The Google employee] has ramped up fast on ML, a new area for him,” and his manager further told the Google employee that he was on track to receive either an Exceeds or Strongly Exceeds Expectations rating in the next performance cycle.

> On or about October 25, 2017, two weeks after that weekly meeting, the Google employee received a “Needs Improvement” rating. This occurred despite the fact that his reviewing manager had been assuring the Google employee every week since September 19, 2017, that he had been meeting expectations. The Google employee also argued that the rating was unfair because he only learned of his alleged “poor performance” on September 6, 2017.

So looks like they're arguing that his bad performance review is because of his memo. Since this is from the complaint, obviously take in what you read with a grain of salt. The complain as a whole is interesting, surprising amount of memes as exhibits.

[1] https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Da...

Ars Technica hosted a copy of the complaint, this might contain what you're looking for:


Can you give more specifics than having to wade through a streaming 161 page PDF?

I think Damore's case is also relatively weak, mostly because of his writings/post, which I'm guessing Google will claim was poorly and/or insufficiently thought out/supported/reasoned, and suggested that Damore didn't have the reasoning/whatever abilities required of a Senior Software Engineer.

I am not a lawyer but the only advice I have heard from lawyers consistently is, "don't take about the case." Is there anything he has to gain from speaking publicly about his lawsuit?

Is this flagged for an obvious reason or is it that the topic is distasteful to some in the community?

Reading through the actual complaint[0], as much as I despise many aspects of the Damore memo, there is a lot of substance (in the complaint itself).

One example is the quote: “If you put a group of 40-something white men in a room together and tell them to come up with something creative or innovative, they’ll come back and tell you how enjoyable the process was, and how they want to do it again, but they come up with fuck-all as a result!”

HR defended this speech, but when substituting in any other class of individuals it would have been violating... It's hard to empathize with the conservative white males that filed the complaint but the substance of the complaint does hold some weight.

[0] https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/20180...

> there is a lot of substance (in the complaint itself).

All that means is that Damore has a minimally competent attorney. A complaint and the supporting information in a complaint (which isn't required to include evidence at all, that's what trials are for) is constructed to sell the idea of a violation of legal right (and, often, in a case expected tomget public attention, secondarily for PR reasons). It is not, quite often, a fair reflection of what the full evidence in context will show, though to be at all ethical it should be a plausible interpretation of the most favorable evidence when all other evidence is discarded as untrustworthy.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact