Antonio Garcia Martinez would not gain entry to my inner circle because he seems immature and misogynist.
But should Apple, Inc. fire him as a product engineer on Apple Inc.’s advertising platform on the basis of my feelings, without any evidence that Martinez engaged in illegal harassment on the job?
The answer is no.
Yet, Apple Inc. has effectively banished Martinez from its ranks after only a few months on the job because Apple workers objected to passages in Martinez’ 2016 book about his work as a product manager at Facebook, Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley.
Under the law, a hostile workplace is one where an employee or employees are victims of severe and pervasive “unwelcome conduct” based on a protected characteristic (i.e. sex, race). A few offensive comments generally don’t suffice, let alone one or two overheated passages from a six-year-old book.
If Apple didn’t offer Martinez a hefty financial incentive to voluntarily resign, it may find itself in court in the near future.
The most objectionable passage in Martinez’ book appears to be his contrast of his then-girlfriend – a guerilla type cartoon character taken right out of a video game – with “most” women in Silicon Valley, whom he characterized “soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit.”
In a Recode interview, Martínez agrees his book “isn’t nice because Silicon Valley isn’t a nice place… For all their presumptions of being subversive and bohemian and counterculture…. [people in Silicon Valley] are complete reactionaries, very conservative and not nearly as liberal and tolerant as they think they are.”
Well, he might right about the part about tolerance.
The Verge reported that some 2000 Apple employees circulated a petition Wednesday demanding an investigation into how Martinez’ published views were “missed or ignored” leading to his hiring. They said what Martinez’ wrote in his book runs counter to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s professed advocacy of human rights.
Within hours, Martinez was gone.
An Apple spokesperson released a statement: “At Apple, we have always strived to create an inclusive, welcoming workplace where everyone is respected and accepted. Behavior that demeans or discriminates against people for who they are has no place here.”
Women in Silicon Valley understandably are weary of boy-men espousing sexist, stereotypical views. A recent study by Accenture and Girls Who Code found that 50% of women leave tech careers by the age of 35, which is a rate 45% higher than men. Women shouldn’t have to act like guerillas from a video game to thrive in a workplace.
But is the answer to target a worker because of something that is mildly offensive in the greater scheme of things that he wrote in a book five years earlier before he was even an employee? Martinez says he wrote the book in “total Hunter S. Thompson/Gonzo mode.”
Or should women demand that employers do the hard work of improving the workplace for women?
Employers should be instituting positive programs to recruit and retain women. Instead of shoehorning women into a workplace model created for men, they should change the model to reflect the presence and needs of women. If they did that, women wouldn’t be bailing from Apple like passengers on the Titanic.
Apple also should have a zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual harassment that arises on the job.