Is Google biased against hiring conservatives? Is that kind of bias even illegal?
These are the questions at the heart of a class action lawsuit arguing that that the tech company’s hiring practices discriminate against conservatives, men, white people, and Asian people. A judge ruled last Friday that the case can proceed, despite multiple motions from Google to have the case thrown out.
The lawsuit was originally filed by James Damore, the infamous former Google employee who was fired after circulating a memo criticizing Google’s diversity initiatives and arguing that biological differences were to blame for low numbers of women in tech jobs. Although Damore took his complaint to arbitration last year, the broader lawsuit will now move forward with two remaining plaintiffs.
Are Conservatives a Protected Class?
Federal employment law prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees based on membership in protected classes including race, sex, national origin, age and religion. Many states go further, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. But what about political affiliation?
Some states have laws protecting employees against discrimination based on political affiliation or activities. And it just so happens that California has some of the strongest protections against political discrimination of any state – which the lawsuit argues Google violated.
Google is strongly contesting that claim, and even the judge that allowed the case to move forward voiced doubts about whether the group of men who say they were discriminated against because of their political activities make up a clear political subclass. It’s now up to the plaintiffs to prove that their political activities and beliefs are similar enough to make them a class – and that Google discriminated against them because of it.
Keeping Your Hiring Practices Fair
All employers need to avoid discrimination in hiring, and hiring a diverse workforce is something many employers do – and arguably should – strive for. Diversity isn’t just about gender and skin color; employers should also consider hiring people with difference backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.
Hiring a diverse team could even help your bottom line. In a study of 1,700 companies across eight countries, the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse leadership teams produced innovation revenue that was almost 20 percentage points higher than companies with less diverse leadership teams.
However, you’ll want to make sure that efforts to promote diversity comply with federal, state and local law. If you’re worried about whether your hiring practices are discriminatory in any way, or are considering implementing an affirmative action plan, you may want to consult an employment lawyer.