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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 @01:57PM (#46696973)
    He fucking resigned.
    • by FuegoFuerte (247200) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:01PM (#46697005)

      And Steve Ballmer retired.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:05PM (#46697063)

      That is the problem with most labor laws. There are usually tricks to get your way. You don't fire the person you force them to resign. You can perform a witch hunt and wait for any slip up as a reason to fire someone.
      We have fire: Where termination is caused by poor/inappropriate performance.
      We have layoff: Where termination is from the employer to reduce staffing to save money.
      We have "resignations": Where the employer tells the person that they need to resign, otherwise we will make their lives difficult.
      We have resignations: Where the employee decides to leave the job, in a graceful method.
      We have quitting: Where the employee leaves instantly, and not so gracefully.

    • by BradMajors (995624) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:08PM (#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 jythie (914043) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:17PM (#46697227)
      Yeah, terrible headline. It pretty much comes down to 'well, if something similar but completely different in all of its actual details happened then it would likely violate the law!'
    • reasons to be fired (Score:3, Interesting)

      by globaljustin (574257)

      employees get fired for virtually everything...the annecdotes are ridiculous

      if an entry level new-hire at a software company dropped a grenade in the first meeting they were allowed to attend and said, "Our app doesn't make money because everyone knows it is spam"

      **right in front of the boss/guy who invented the app**

      and that guy got fired...or reassigned to something so bullshit that he quit...

      would we even care or suspect something wrong happend?

      in my mind Mozilla's CEO is the same

      just b/c he's a CEO does

  • I May Not Agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:01PM (#46697007)

    I may not agree with Brendan's position, but it is a scary precedent to get rid of people based on their personal beliefs and political activities.

    --MyLongNickName

    • Re:I May Not Agree (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BigFire (13822) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:27PM (#46697413)

      Hang the heretic. How dare him having the same opinion on the sacred gay marriage as Barack Obama in 2008 rather than Dick Chaney in 2008.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:09PM (#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 bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:13PM (#46697181) Journal

      It's criminal. The AG of California can fine Mozilla Inc for being incredibly hostile. They did, however, put in every effort to keep him; three board members severed their relationship with the company, and so the company is not responsible for their actions. If other board members where threatening to do so as well, the company is tied to these people and may be responsible. So Mozilla Inc has a good defense, but Eich doesn't have to initiate the case against them.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:55PM (#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 ggraham412 (1492023) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:11PM (#46697135)

    The crux of the issue is that social attitudes are in flux on this matter. If you don't give people leeway to change, they will likely harden their positions.

    And if you give some people leeway to change (eg- Obama, Hilary) and deny leeway to others (Brendan Eich) you are being blatantly partisan and unfair.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:13PM (#46697187)

    Had he donated $1000 to pro-gay organization and was fired - there would be wide action in his support....

    But he donated to the wrong organization so he "resigned" - after external and internal pressure...

    It sickens me... there is no more free speach... and some people clearly can be discriminated because of their political views...

    • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:40PM (#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.
    • by Ixokai (443555)

      Free speech doesn't mean freedom from criticism or shaming.

    • by SoupGuru (723634) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @04:52PM (#46699253)

      Yes.

      Sort of like if I donate $1000 to save the pandas its ok but if I donate $1000 to shoot pandas, people get bent out of shape.

      Or contributing $1000 to get more minorities to vote as opposed to $1000 to prevent minorities from voting.

      Or contributing $1000 to clean up a local park vs $1000 to dump more trash in a local park.

      Or $1000 to fix potholes vs $1000 to create more potholes.

      Should I go on?

      Yes, there are certain things you could contribute money to that will be OK when contributing to the other side is not OK.

  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:19PM (#46697255)
    I feel that Mr.Eich was compelled to resign not by his employer, but by the GLBT community. They exerted political pressure which would have impacted the Mozilla organization, and Mr. Eich made a personal decision to shield the organization from that political pressure.

    GLBT organizations have a perfect right to express their opinions, and even to use political and economic pressure to achieve their desired ends. The Mozilla foundation acted correctly in not bowing directly to this pressure. Mr. Eich acted both correctly and even (some might say) with noble altruism in resigning.

    Understand the causes of actions - if you insist on placing blame, place it where it belongs. Mr. Eich was forced out by the GLBT community over his support for a bill which directly contradicted their political agenda. Their actions were within what is considered to be acceptable, and resulted in Mr. Eich sustaining a personal loss for his open support of a bill he obviously believes in. I don't think anybody here behaved badly or did anything wrong; but I believe that all involved should now be judged by their actions and their roles in this drama.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joe Decker (3806)

      "GLBT organizations have a perfect right to express their opinions,"

      I'll be impressed if you can point at a signficant GLBT organization that actually did discuss Eich. As near as I can tell, the repsonse was entirely grassroots, and not limited to GLBT individuals.

  • Interesting Quote (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:19PM (#46697257) Homepage

    As it stands, I think he probably had a moderate chance of succeeding in a legal suit. At the very least he could of sued Mozilla over some workplace harassment law (not providing a safe workplace).

    But with the quote from the Mozilla Executive Chairman: "'It's clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,' Baker was quoted as saying." I would say any legal action over discrimination against Mozilla is now in his favour. To me that says that only reason he was not fired, was because he was given the option to resign, before they fired him. And Mozilla would/will find it hard to explain to the court how firing someone who was unpopular because of a political belief is completely different than firing someone for a political belief. I am not saying it is cut and dry, but he definitely seems to have a case.

    • First of all, that was probably a statement of opinion.

      But looking at it critically, it may be a statement of opinion based on the fact that as a CEO, his credibility was damaged, and that's a major impediment to his actual ability to do his job. If the employees of the company hold him in low regard, he'll have a hard time motivating them or retaining them. In a year, he may well have been forced to resign for being unable to successfully fulfil his CEO duties, entirely because of this somewhat intangible

  • It sad really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:20PM (#46697271)

    Mozilla lost a great technically minded CEO who could have done some good things for the organization; which IMHO badly needs strong leadship right now.

    Why because a bunch of the rabble could not deal with someone not sharing their opinions. Honestly I don't think anyone supporting same sex marriage supports equality at all. Government should not recognize ANY marriage. If you get married that should be entirely between you, your God(s), who ever else attends where you warship, and that's it.

    It should not be your boss's business, nor the state's nor any courts. Government recognizing marrige does nothing but create a special class of people (married people), and there is no reason they should get the special treatment they do.

    As far as children go, both biological parents should be considered to have parental rights and responsibilities, unless the father isn't known and nobody comes forward for in some reasonable time frame.

    Everyone should be entitled to name someone (anyone) they wish to specify to share anything that exists as a spousal benefit today or those benefits should be withdrawn. I don't think anyone should have to file a tax return, but as long as we have tax returns EVERYONE should have to file individually.

    So will I continue to vote against so called marriage equality; you bet I will because the last thing I want to see is the expansion of what is already a special class which should not exist in secular society.

    • Government does recognize marriage so by voting against marriage equality for all what you are really saying is you support privileges for the people that already have them.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Why because a bunch of the rabble could not deal with someone not sharing their opinions. Honestly I don't think anyone supporting same sex marriage supports equality at all. Government should not recognize ANY marriage.

      Honestly, I think you're either trolling, or haven't even tried to think objectively about this. I agree wholeheartedly that government should not be involved in marriage at all, but while it is, supporting access to it regardless of sexual orientation is clearly supporting equality.

  • Streisand effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:33PM (#46697521) Journal

    I wonder how damaged Mozilla is by the Streisand effect for this whole debacle. If nobody publicized Eich's relatively small contribution to a political campaign from six years ago, nobody would know about any of this. I seriously doubt Eich had some kind of master plan for a gay purge at Mozilla. It is possible for one to be opposed to gay marriage without hating gay people, and chances are his political opinion would have no negative impact on Mozilla.

    If nobody had said anything, Mozilla would probably sail along just fine. Instead, a big deal was made, and now you've got pro gay marriage people who were upset that Mozilla would ever employ such a gay-hatin' monster, you've got anti gay marriage people claiming persecution, and then the base of people who think it's much ado about nothing, anyway, because somebody's political opinions shouldn't have anything to do with their job.

    Basically, everybody comes out of this smelling like shit, when if nobody had ever said anything, things probably would have been just fine.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:49PM (#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.

    • Yeah, that seems low. I want to know who gave $100,000. Not who gave $100.

      It's money screwing it up again. We want transparency to keep big money from taking over (yeah right), but we don't want to make it a 2 second google to find out everyone that supports an unpopular position.
  • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:01PM (#46697955)

    The first part is that there are basically two groups of people: those that feel they should be able to do whatever makes them happy as long as what they're doing doesn't adversely affect others, and those who feel they have the right to tell others what they can and can't do regardless of impact on themselves.

    Make whatever convoluted case or slippery slope argument you want, Adam and Steve getting married has zero actual effect on anyone else. So what you have is a CEO basically giving his social opinion that he feels something is wrong that people who work for him feel is okay. My last company allowed employees to wear shorts to work because it was 120 out in the summer. One day someone brought that up in a room with a vice president in it and his comment was "Yeah, you're allowed to do it...but I think its damned unprofessional". Half the people in the room were wearing shorts. Word got around and nobody wore them anymore. So what a senior manager says has a significant effect on workers, right or wrong, rules/laws or not.

    Second part is that roughly half the people/customers/programmers/business owners/executives believe one way on this and the other half believe the opposite. You're therefore alienating half the people that work for the company and half the people it works with. Not a good idea from any perspective. Sure, the ones that feel like you do will rally behind you while the other half walk away. Probably okay if you're making chicken sandwiches. Not okay when you're trying to manage a major software company.

    Bottom line: keep your social opinions to a personal level and keep them out of a professional environment. You can make all the legal arguments you want. The VP still thinks shorts are unprofessional and chances are if you wear them, you're going to be getting the crap jobs if he notices.

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