White Men Challenge Workplace Diversity Efforts

Lauren Weber, Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2018

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A recruiter is accusing YouTube of retaliating against him after he complained that the video site discriminated against white and Asian male applicants in favor of hiring other people of color and women. The case comes on the heels of a lawsuit against Google, in which James Damore has accused the company of firing him for espousing conservative political views that oppose the company’s diversity-related hiring practices.

Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google and YouTube, said it would defend itself in both cases in an area that has been heavily litigated. Discrimination is generally difficult to prove, and so-called reverse-discrimination lawsuits must pass an even higher bar, employment lawyers say.

“You can have a goal, even a numerical goal over a time period, to increase the number of women or people of color,” said Dennis Parker, director of the racial justice program at the American Civil Liberties Union. “That’s different than saying ‘We’re not going to hire any more white men.’ ”

The cases could have broader implications for Silicon Valley companies and their recruiting methods as the tech industry faces continued scrutiny for a lack of diversity. While discrimination against any sex or race is forbidden by federal statute, courts have long allowed companies to put in place programs meant to correct imbalances, such as targeted outreach and training courses designed for people from under-represented groups.

One of the last major cases alleging discrimination against white men was decided in 2009 when the Supreme Court sided with white firefighters who said the New Haven, Conn., fire department discriminated against them by invalidating the results of a test used to determine promotions. {snip}

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Arne Wilberg, the plaintiff in the suit against YouTube, is a white recruiter who worked at Google for nine years, including four years at YouTube. He alleges that the video site told recruiters to cancel interviews with applicants who weren’t female, black or Hispanic after setting quotas for hiring minorities.

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Many U.S. employers are under pressure from employees, advocacy groups and, in some cases, investors to diversify their payrolls and, by extension, tackle issues like the gender wage gap, sexual harassment and economic inequality. For example, activist shareholder Arjuna Capital has led campaigns to compel firms including Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. to identify and fix pay disparities between male and female workers.

The tech sector has come under special scrutiny ever since big tech firms began disclosing data about the makeup of their workforces, said Jon Bischke, chief executive of Entelo, a recruiting software firm that helps companies hire technical talent.

“Their numbers effectively have to go up every year,” he said. “If their numbers went backward, that would be a public-relations nightmare.”

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Discrimination claims from white men aren’t confined to the office. Last fall, a man sued a San Diego restaurant that hosted a women’s networking event, saying he was discriminated against because he wasn’t allowed to attend and, although he was permitted to sit at the bar, wasn’t given the discounted drink specials offered to attendees. His suit naming the restaurant and Ladies Get Paid, the organization that hosted the event, was settled.

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