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Mozilla Businesses Government The Courts

Mozilla CEO Firestorm Likely Violated California Law 1116

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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  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:13PM (#46697181) Homepage 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.

  • Interesting Quote (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:19PM (#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.

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

    by BigFire ( 13822 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:27PM (#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.

  • reasons to be fired (Score:3, Interesting)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:40PM (#46697617) Journal

    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 doesn't mean he is immune to the vagaries of contemporary employment

  • by Joe Decker ( 3806 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:42PM (#46697641) Homepage

    "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.

  • Re:Lol... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:45PM (#46697691)

    So, it's still okay to fire gay CEO's, then? I mean, if I'm in a conservative state and someone spots my CEO at a gay bar or notices that he's donated to some gay cause, he has to go. I presume you're good with that?

  • Re:Poor poor bigot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @04:35PM (#46698425)

    Marriage is a civil institution. People with religious delusions want everything to be about their cults, but reality doesn't work that way.

    Of course the courts have the power to redefine civil marriage.

    It's not quite that simple. For centuries there was no separation of church and state in Europe, so it is difficult to say whether marriage was religious or civil as they were one and the same. To further complicate matters, prior to the church instituting it's view of marriage on the people, one could only get married civilly with the express permission of the king, governor or whomever was the legal authority. It was the church that stated that people are free to marry whomever they chose, with certain restrictions (ie couldn't be previously married, free consent, etc.). The church's influence in Western society and culture wasn't just about marriage. It also extended to education (both lower and higher, including universities and the like), legal systems, social norms, philosophy, research and science and numerous other areas that touch modern life. Why can't you marry your first cousin? It's illegal. Why is it illegal? Because the church forbade it long before any monarch or government declared it wrong.

    And that really is how things work. Like it or not, pretty much all of modern society has been influenced by religious systems.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @04:42PM (#46698499) Homepage Journal

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

    Did you read the summary, or just stop at the sentence that seems to justify your point of view?

    Because I saw this sentence in there as well:

    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.

    "Not fit to lead" does not automatically equate to "not fit to work here."

    So basically, the only reason he was not fired, was because he was given the option to resign, before they fired him.

    So, then, you agree that he chose to quit, and thus cannot claim wrongful termination.

  • Re:I May Not Agree (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Collective 0-0009 ( 1294662 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @05:18PM (#46698919)
    Hold on... let me find my saved post... someone needs to know what a natural right is and that there are other kinds... here it is:

    There are natural rights (think inalienable, but really what is?) and there is the vastly longer list of legal rights. Those bestowed by a society that has decided "there should be a law...". I even have a link to a little known website that explains it very well: [].

    Also marriage is not so people will procreate! It's actually the opposite, in a way. Marriage is a social construct that aimed to keep families together by giving them certain advantages over those not married. Families, for many years, have been held up as the foundation of society in America. Without them, we would all be heathens, so they say. So marriage was an attempt to keep healthy, well-to-do men from running around impregnating hundreds of women and instead stay with one and help raise the kids and tend the land.

    Interestingly, in many places marriages last simply because of societal pressure. So Brendan doesn't want gays to marry because marriage is ingrained in society as a man and a women in a nice house raising kids and pressures people to conform through societal and government pressure. Brendan is forced out of his job because societal pressures mount to the point it will hurt business due to his intolerance. So California steps in and the government pressures (aka forces) Mozilla to reinstate him. That's some roundabout coercion there.
  • Re:Poor poor bigot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @05:21PM (#46698959)

    > People with religious delusions want everything to be about their cults, but reality doesn't work that way.

    Way to flamebait. Good thing you're on the party line or you'd have gotten modded down.

    The simple fact of the matter is, that everyone wants everything to be about their beliefs, "cult" or not. In a democratic society we work out (or are supposed to) something that works as a good enough compromise, but at the end of the day it's basically all arbitrary crap. I doubt you'll find a law on the books that derives itself from anything much like pure reason... They're really all there because people didn't like one thing or another, and wanted to make sure that wasn't allowed. "That's annoying" "That's mean" "That's weird" "That cost me money", etc. Really, "against my religion" is probably one of the rarer reasons for a law to be on the books. When it comes to gay marriage, I quite honestly think that more people are against it because "That's gross" rather than any religious reason; they just use religion as an easier point of debate.

  • by Jamie McGuigan ( 3609129 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @06:03PM (#46699339)
    While constructive discharge may technically apply, in practice it doesn't really apply to high profile roles in the public spotlight. The whole purpose of diplomatic resignation is to diffuse public attention from the issue and maintain "reputation" for future roles. Just image the media firestorm to the headline "Brendan Eich sues Mozilla for Constructive Discharge over Anti-Homosexuality views". However, from various reports online, there was a significant amount of internal conflict about the choice of the new Mozilla CEO, before this media outburst, specifically some wanted to appoint a Marketing PR person to the CEO role rather than a techie. I guess a Marketing PR person will now be appointed as the new CEO.
  • by dnavid ( 2842431 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @07:22PM (#46700065)

    > However, I do not, nor do I think most people, support everyone's *legal* rights.

    Are you sure most people support let's polyamoric marriages? I wouldn't be so sure and all these marriages would do is to remove yet another arbitrary constraint, this time not on sex of people involved but on a number.

    That's an interesting way to put it. All these marriages would do is form the basis of a slippery slope. Because its not as if they have any overriding beneficial purpose, like, say, allowing couples to get married.

    Either way, by harassing people like Eich who always kept a strict separation between private and proffesional life, perpetually offended busybodies legitimize the opposite, like hounding gay rights supporters in backwards places. Long story short, if your stance on how to conduct business between 2 sides of the issue doesn't survive multiplying by -1, it fucking sucks and is hypocritical. Half the progressive state of California VOTED for it, ffs.

    And it's not like you will change people's minds when your politically correct zeal pushes them underground. They feel wronged and the persecution only fossilizes their worldview.

    There's no hypocrisy here. Eich spent money to support the cause of blocking a group from exercising their civil rights. A different group of people exercised their right to free speech to object to his running a company whose corporate mission statement is at odds with that act. The notion that one of those acts is more fair than the other is what makes you think there's hypocrisy involved. However, both are legitimate advocacy positions to take.

    I'm not terribly ashamed to admit I'm not unhappy about who ultimately won and who ultimately lost. As I said, this is not a logical puzzle, these are real people's lives at issue, and I'm not going to hide behind a fabricated sense of fair play. I value expression of ideas. I do not have an obligation to support all actions that are a consequence of belief. If you believe someone is wrong, that's your prerogative. If you act against them in support of that belief, then you force people to take sides. I picked a side.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead