The Fair Employment and Housing Act offers considerable protections to a variety of groups of employees. Of course, employees cannot be subjected to discrimination based upon gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. However, the law doesn’t stop there. It also protects employees from discrimination based upon political activity. That protection can potentially include a variety of types of activities and employees, including, as noted in a recent article on TheStreet.com, the now-famous former Google software engineer who was terminated after publishing a memo criticizing the corporation’s diversity policies.
James Damore had been a Google employee for 3 1/2 years when he wrote “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” The memo critiqued the way in which Google set out to achieve diversity, including criticism of the way in which those employment practices affected the genders. After the engineer published the memo, the employer terminated him, allegedly for violating Google’s employee “code of conduct.”
Some observers have theorized that Google’s abrupt and immediate termination of the engineer’s employment may provide the engineer with a cause of action under the FEHA. Section 1102 of the code bars employers from coercing or influencing employees “to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.” This includes coercion or influence in the forms of loss of employment or threat of loss of employment.