Employee Free to Speak Out, but Not on Social Media?

Susan Hall

Is the place to start in eliminating the whole “brogrammer” culture in IT to get rid of the word “dongle” as Matt Buchanan suggests in an article in The New Yorker?

The whole tale of a female tech developer who tweeted about comments she overheard at the PyCon, the conference for Python programming enthusiasts, along with a photo of the commenters, has taken an ugly turn, with Buchannan saying everyone involved behaved badly.

Most notably, Adria Richards, a San Francisco "developer evangelist" for email delivery company SendGrid was fired. The explanation from her boss:

"A SendGrid developer evangelist's responsibility is to build and strengthen our Developer Community across the globe. In light of the events over the last 48+ hours, it has become obvious that her actions have strongly divided the same community she was supposed to unite. As a result, she can no longer be effective in her role at SendGrid. ... In the end, the consequences that resulted from how she reported the conduct put our business in danger."

SendGrid was hit by a denial-of-service attack, and Richards attacked online “with the vile words people use only when attacking women,” including threats of rape and murder, according to Levi Sumagaysay at SiliconBeat.

One of the two PlayHaven male employees making the juvenile jokes also was fired and the other, Alex Reid,  “still with the company and a valued employee,” according to a blog post by CEO Andy Yang.

Interestingly enough, SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin claimed the company supports a worker’s right to call out others for inappropriate behavior, but not use social media to do so.

"Her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line. Publicly shaming the offenders -- and bystanders -- was not the appropriate way to handle the situation.”

Meanwhile, Therese Lawless, a San Francisco attorney who represents employees in employment and discrimination cases told SiliconValley.com that Richards could have a "groundbreaking case":

"They're basically retaliating against her for speaking out about sexual harassment. Oftentimes, employers say their excuse is that 'We want this person out of the workforce because they don't fit into the culture, they don't get along with their co-workers.' But she's in a situation where she's speaking about inappropriate behavior."

Labor lawyers said PlayHaven was on firmer ground for the firing of its employee.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.



Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.