Poll: Majority Against Firing Over Controversial Speech

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Polling indicates that a majority of registered voters believe it should illegal for companies to fire employees for expressing polarizing opinions in the workplace. The survey followed Google's hotly-debated firing of an employee who asserted that men and women had inherently different skill sets.

On Aug. 28, a Harvard-Harris poll found that 85 percent of registered voters believed that companies should be legally prohibited from firing someone for expressing a potentially divisive political view. The poll further showed that 70 percent of registered voters believed that workplace speech should be protected by the First Amendment, The Hill reports.

In other findings, 71 percent of registered voters believed that companies should be legally prohibited from firing someone for believing in gender stereotypes. Additionally, 79 percent believed that it should be illegal to fire an employee for voicing opposition to same-sex marriage and 60 percent said that employees who espoused racist views online or attended a racist rally should also be protected from termination, The Hill reports.

"The public overwhelmingly believes that it should be illegal to fire people for expressing their views," Harvard-Harris co-directors Stephen Ansolabehere and Mark Penn said in a joint analysis of their survey data.

The poll found that 55 percent of respondents believed that tech company Google was wrong to fire employee James Damore for his assertion that women may not be as biologically suited to working in Silicon Valley as men.

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In July, Damore sent a memo to his Google co-workers that addressed the company's initiative to promote gender diversity.  

"I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don't endorse using stereotypes ... 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," Damore wrote, according to Recode.

On Aug. 7, Google CEO Sundar Pichai disclosed in a company memo that Damore had been fired for his comments. Pichai wrote that while "much of what was in that memo is fair to debate ... portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes."

"To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," Pichai concluded.

Several conservative media outlets were outraged by Damore's firing and asserted that Google had violated his right to freedom of speech. On Aug. 17, Damore accused the tech company of punishing him for his conservative viewpoint.

"Really, it's like being gay in the 1950s," Damore told Business Insider. "These conservatives have to stay in the closet and have to mask who they really are. And that's a huge problem because there's open discrimination against anyone who comes out of the closet as a conservative."

The Harvard-Harris survey found 45 percent of voters believed that tech companies in Silicon Valley were fair to conservative employees while 43 percent believed that they were biased against those with conservative views. Meanwhile, 46 percent of respondents said liberal-leaning employees were given a fair shake by tech companies, while 35 percent believed that liberal-leaning employees were favored by tech companies.

The survey also found that 55 percent of voters said they did not feel comfortable voicing political opinions in the workplace.

Sources: Business InsiderThe Hill (2), Recode / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Ben Nuttall/Flickr, Trollbackco/Wikimedia Commons

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