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Mozilla Businesses Government The Courts

Mozilla CEO Firestorm Likely Violated California Law 1116

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-ok-california-laws-aren't-like-real-people-laws dept.
theodp (442580) writes "While the rise and fall of Brendan Eich at Mozilla sparked a debate over how to properly strike a balance between an employee's political free speech and his employer's desire to communicate a particular corporate 'culture,' notes Brian Van Vleck at the California Workforce Resource Blog, the California Labor Code has already resolved this debate. 'Under California law,' Van Vleck explains, 'it is blatantly illegal to fire an employee because he has donated money to a political campaign. This rule is clearly set forth in Labor Code sections 1101-1102.' Section 1102 begins, 'No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.' Corporate Counsel's Marlisse Silver Sweeney adds, 'Mozilla is adamant that the board did not force Eich to resign, and asked him to stay on in another role. It also says that although some employees tweeted for his resignation, support for his leadership was expressed by a larger group of employees. And this is all a good thing for the company from a legal standpoint.' As Eich stepped down, Re/code reported that Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said Eich's ability to lead the company had been badly damaged by the continued scrutiny over the hot-button issue. 'It's clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,' Baker was quoted as saying. 'I think there has been pressure from all sides, of course, but this is Brendan's decision. Given the circumstances, this is not surprising.' Van Vleck offers these closing words of advice, 'To the extent employers want to follow in Mozilla's footsteps by policing their employees' politics in the interests of 'culture,' 'inclusiveness,' or corporate branding, they should be aware that their efforts will violate California law.'"
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Mozilla CEO Firestorm Likely Violated California Law

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  • Bu the wasn't fired (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sylak (1611137) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:57PM (#46696973)
    He fucking resigned.
  • by BradMajors (995624) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:08PM (#46697099)

    Constructive discharge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    "In order to establish a constructive discharge, an employee must plead and prove, by the usual preponderance of the evidence standard, that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable or aggravated at the time of the employee's resignation that a reasonable employer would realize that a reasonable person in the employee's position would be compelled to resign."

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:09PM (#46697109)

    How do you color the whole issue as him only resigning, when three board members quit over his presence there. That's a lot of pressure from the company.

    It looks an awful lot like coercion...

    But, isn't it up for him to sue if he feels he did not resign voluntarily? It seems like he probably would not do so.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:10PM (#46697133) Homepage

    Did you even read the summery: "'It's clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,' Baker was quoted as saying."

    So basically, the only reason he was not fired, was because he was given the option to resign, before they fired him. This is a quote taken directly from the mouth of the Mozilla Executive Chairman.

  • Re:Lol... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:32PM (#46697505)

    [rushing to speakerphone] Janice, please tell all the coloreds and jews that they're fired. RightSaidFred99 said it's okay.

  • by Joe Decker (3806) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:39PM (#46697599) Homepage

    Except that the statement followed the resignation.

    So, if you're saying that Eich was psychic or had a time machine, and can prove that, you've made your case.

  • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:40PM (#46697613)
    Ahm, there is wide action in his support. They guy is getting a massive outpouring of support from the media and internet in general. It is not the only reaction, but it is pretty well represented because of, *gasp* free speech. Yes, in free speech the minority side actually gets to make their case, not just keep quite from bothering the poor oppressed WASPs who's right to be intolerant without repercussion must be maintained.
  • There's no outrage because he's changed his position (or, possibly, as other commenters have said, he had that position all along and merely claimed he was against equal marriage because that was the political thing to do).

    Eich was given the opportunity to recant, but he didn't, strongly implying that this is still the thing that he believes.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:49PM (#46697753) Homepage Journal

    This all started with the LA Times obtaining a list of all donors to Prop 8 and publishing it's contents as a searchable online database.
    http://hotair.com/archives/2014/04/03/how-did-people-find-out-that-mozillas-ceo-donated-to-support-prop-8/

    The law that requires that all political donors who donate more than $100 may be divulged is the issue here. So it would seem that if you want to donate and NOT face repercussions for having an unpopular opinion, then you should never ever donate more than $99 to any California Ballot Measure or Political Initiative based in California.

    In this case, it appears that CA law regarding disclosure of political contributions has come head to head with CA Labor Code. And considering SCOTUS' recent decision to consider monetary campaign contributions as free speech, it also would potentially have Constitutional ramifications (not for Mozilla, but for the State of California disclosure policy) So in this case, there is likely fuck-all Eich can do about it unless he wants to make a major stink about it in Federal Courts, at his own expense and with no possibility of personal gain.

  • by bsolar (1176767) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:54PM (#46697829)
    It would not be wrongful termination since he was not fired, he resigned. Instead it could very well be constructive discharge [wikipedia.org]

    In the United States, constructive discharge has differing meanings depending on the jurisdiction. In California, the California Supreme Court defines constructive discharge as follows:

    "In order to establish a constructive discharge, an employee must plead and prove, by the usual preponderance of the evidence standard, that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable or aggravated at the time of the employee's resignation that a reasonable employer would realize that a reasonable person in the employee's position would be compelled to resign."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:55PM (#46697843)

    How do you color the whole issue as him only resigning, when three board members quit over his presence there. That's a lot of pressure from the company.

    It looks an awful lot like coercion...

    But, isn't it up for him to sue if he feels he did not resign voluntarily? It seems like he probably would not do so.

    https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2014/04/05/faq-on-ceo-resignation/

    Q: Did Board members resign over Brendan’s Prop 8 donation?

    A: No. Gary Kovacs and Ellen Siminoff had previously stated they had plans to leave as soon as Mozilla chose the next CEO. John Lilly did not resign over Proposition 8 or any concerns about Brendan’s personal beliefs.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:58PM (#46697889) Journal
    A lot of people uninstalled the browser, apparently, and indicated that Eich was the reason why on the exit survey.
  • Quid pro quo here. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chas (5144) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @04:01PM (#46697949) Homepage Journal

    Let's take a look at OKCupid's CEO as well.

    http://www.motherjones.com/moj... [motherjones.com]

    In 2004 Sam Yagan donated $500 to Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah). Rep. Cannon voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, against a ban on sexual-orientation based job discrimination and for a prohibition on gay adoptions.

  • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @04:04PM (#46697991) Homepage

    Did you even read the summery: "'It's clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,' Baker was quoted as saying."

    So basically, the only reason he was not fired, was because he was given the option to resign, before they fired him. This is a quote taken directly from the mouth of the Mozilla Executive Chairman.

    Generally speaking when you want someone to resign but lack the legal means to fire them, you offer them a severance package to so that they'll decide to leave on their own. The terms usually call for non-disclosure of the deal elements (or possibly that there was a deal at all), and also some kind of legal protection for the company. Nothing illegal about that.

  • by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @05:27PM (#46699015) Homepage

    How did he attempt to limit the rights of others?

    Duh, by attempting to take away the rights of people. (Same-sex marriage was legal in California at the time.) I don't know how much more obvious it could be. The fact that he has the right to say it doesn't mean he wasn't attempting to limit the rights of others.

    Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from all consequences. If your local baker were campaigning to repeal the 19th amendment, would you argue that women (or people who like women) who refuse to buy his products are infringing his rights somehow? If so, you have one of the stupidest definitions of "I'll defend to the death your right to say it" I've ever heard.

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