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Google memo says Urs Hölzle discouraged pro-diversity posts

Google IO + Urs Cloud
Google Senior VP Urs Hölzle

  • Google is under fire for supposedly being an
    inhospitable place for conservatives and was sued this week by
    James Damore for allegedly discriminating against whites,
    males, and conservatives.
  • But a former engineer, in a newly released memo, said
    the company is equally unwelcoming to employees who publicly
    support diversity efforts and out colleagues who make racist or
    sexist comments.
  • According to the engineer, Urs Hölzle, a top Google
    executive, personally admonished him for calling out bigots and
    supporting diversity, accusing him of stirring up
  • “If the majority of your coworkers are Nazis, it is
    better if you don’t know about it,” Hölzle allegedly

To hear James Damore and other conservatives tell it, Google is a
hostile place for those who question the value of diversity.

But according to one ex-engineer, the search company is an
equally unwelcoming to those who call out bigoted employees and
want to encourage it to hire more women and underrepresented

After trying to address head-on racist sentiments posted in an
internal company discussion forum and posting articles there
about the lack of diversity in tech in September 2015, the former
engineer — whom
Gizmodo identified as Cory Altheide
— said a senior executive
at the company accused him of stirring up trouble and suggested
it wasn’t a good idea to put the spotlight on employees in the
company that are “Nazis.”

“If the majority of your coworkers are Nazis, it is better if you
don’t know about it,” Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president
of technical infrastructure said,
according to a memo
Altheide released Thursday.

Altheide decided to leave Google the same day he had the
conversation with Hölzle. He had expected the conversation to be
with an HR representative and his manager, and was put on the
line with Hölzle unwittingly, he said.

“I’m leaving because I don’t trust Urs. I’m afraid of Urs,”
Altheide wrote in his memo. “He inserted himself into what
should have been a conversation with my direct manager,
and ‘requested’ I stop … talking about things he doesn’t want
me to talk about,” wrote Altheide (emphasis his).

He added: “I’ve been bullied by an SVP with ten thousand
[full-time employees] who roll up to him, arguably the most
powerful SVP in the company, who is also *my* SVP, and the SVP
I’ll have in any position I’m qualified for at Google. I’ve left
before, when it made sense to do so, and I came back – when it
made sense to do so. I don’t think it will ever make sense to do
so again.

“I don’t want to work with jerks.”

Altheide did not immediately return a request for comment. Google
also did not immediately return a request for comment. 

The release of Altheide’s memo comes as Google has faced mounting
pressure from right-wing groups who accuse it of fostering an
environment that’s inimical to conservatives and throttling them
from airing their views. Earlier this week, former employees
James Damore and David Gudeman sued Google for
allegedly discriminating against whites, males, and

Altheide worked as a security engineer at Google from 2010
through January 2016, according to Gizmodo. He originally
addressed his memo — which he titled “What happened to Cory?” —
to coworkers to explain his departure from the company.

The incidents leading up to his departure started in the summer
of 2015, Altheide said. That July, employees began discussing on
the internal company forum the so-called pipeline problem in
tech, the idea that women and minority workers are
underrepresented in the industry because not enough of them are
qualified. After that thread, turned “sadly contentious,” Hölzle
tried to quiet things down before another Google executive
effectively shut down the discussion in the forum.

But in early September Altheide said he became aware that parts
of the internal discussion about the pipeline problem had been
leaked by a “racist/sexist ‘neoreactionary'” employee. In
response, Altheide started another discussion in the internal
forum to address bigoted comments allegedly posted by fellow
employees. Google HR contacted him soon after and questions his
intentions for publishing the post. Altheide defended himself,
saying what he was posting was relevant to the industry.

Despite the scrutiny from HR, Altheide kept posting news articles
relating to matters of diversity in tech to the internal forum.
Eventually, he got another email from HR, asking to discuss his
postings in a video call. But when he took the call, it wasn’t an
HR representative or his manager, but Hölzle on the other end.

Hölzle’s comment about not exposing Nazis in the company came in
the context of him urging Altheide to avoid discussing diversity
issue for the sake of just getting along. He remembered Hölzle’s
Nazi line verbatim, because it stuck out to him as “a savagely
tactless analogy for a Swiss man to be making,” he said in the

After that meeting, Altheide received an email from Hölzle, with
his direct manager copied. To Altheide’s knowledge,  this
was the first time his manager was informed of Hölzle’s
involvement. The email formally asked Altheide not to post about
“controversial topics,” and warned him that openly discussing his
conversation with Hölzle could constitute “retaliation” on
Altheide’s part, which would violate the company’s code of

Hölzle obviously had no idea what “retaliation” meant, Altheide
wrote in his memo. And that email from the man who’s best known
as Google’s eighth employee convinced Altheide he needed to

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