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Does Google have a diversity problem?

The act of clicking “send” on an email cost a Google employee his job.

While the staff member remained unnamed, software engineer James Damore confessed to sending the email. He is now considering legal action against his former employer for his termination after he complained to federal labor officials about alleged efforts by executives to silence him.

In his internal memo, Damore criticized Google’s diversity program discriminated against some employees. He suggested that men are generally better suited at engineering jobs than women are. The liberal bias among executives and other levels of staff created obstacles to openly discuss the issue at the company.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai announced to Google staff that portions of the employee’s memo crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in the workplace. It also violated the company’s code of conduct that requires all employees to promote a culture “free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The viral missive became public fodder when disapproving Google employees leaked it to the media. However, putting the memo in the public forum created concerns beyond the opinions of one, now ex-staff member. It has escalated a debate over free speech at Google and within the company as Damore enjoys support from some of his former co-workers.

One of the world’s largest companies now faces questions as to the handling of an employee who offered opinions considered by some, but not all, to be offensive. Google justifies a firing over perpetuation of gender stereotypes. Damore sees it as politically motivated retaliation that violates his legal right to express concerns about the working environment and reveal potentially illegal behavior.

Running concurrent to “memo-gate” is a Labor Department investigation into whether Google compensates men and women differently. Since Google sells advertising and cloud services to the federal government, a routine audit into a federal contractor revealed initial evidence of the company systematically paying female employees less then male employees.

Also, a June annual diversity report revealed that a majority of Google workers are white and Asian men. Thirty-one percent are women, a number unchanged from last year.

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