GitHub regrets firing Jewish employee who called Trump-incited mob “Nazis”

January 18, 2021 by No Comments

Enlarge / Trump-incited mob tries to breach the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Getty Images | Bloomberg

GitHub Inc. yesterday apologized for firing a Jewish employee who had urged colleagues to “stay safe” and avoid “Nazis” on the day a mob incited by President Trump stormed the US Capitol. GitHub said it “reversed the decision” and indicated it is trying to hire the employee back.

“Stay safe homies, Nazis are about,” the employee, whose identity hasn’t been revealed publicly, wrote in an internal Slack chat room on January 6. He was fired two days later, after one “coworker was quick to criticize the employee for using divisive rhetoric,” Business Insider reported last week.

“I did not know that, as a Jew, it would be so polarizing to say this word,” the former employee wrote in a Slack group for Jewish employees shortly “before his corporate accounts got deactivated,” Business Insider wrote. The former employee “is Jewish and had family who died in the Holocaust,” the article said.

The former employee told Business Insider that he sent the message in Slack because he “was scared for people who were there [in DC].” He also said that GitHub’s human resources cited unspecified “patterns of behavior” when firing him, and that he was seeking more details on the reason for his termination.

About 200 employees signed an internal letter protesting the firing, Business Insider wrote. GitHub employees have also been “saying ‘Nazi’ repeatedly in Slack in regards to the US Capitol rioters, to protest what is being perceived as unfair treatment,” according to The Verge.

GitHub’s apology

GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft, announced yesterday that it has “reversed the decision to separate with the employee and are in communication with his representative.” GitHub said the reversal came after it hired “an outside investigator to conduct an independent investigation.” That “investigation revealed significant errors of judgment and procedure,” and the company’s head of human resources “has taken personal accountability and resigned from GitHub,” GitHub COO Erica Brescia wrote. (TechCrunch identified that HR executive as Carrie Olesen.)

“To the employee we wish to say publicly: we sincerely apologize,” Brescia wrote.

We asked GitHub today if it has been able to hire the fired employee back and/or reach a settlement with him, and we’ll update this article if we get an answer.

GitHub also condemned the mob, saying, “It was appalling last week to watch a violent mob, including Nazis and white supremacists, attack the US Capitol.” Though GitHub apologized for firing the employee, the company also said that employees must be “respectful” and “professional” when discussing the topic and similar ones internally.

“Employees are free to express concerns about Nazis, antisemitism, white supremacy or any other form of discrimination or harassment in internal discussions,” GitHub said. “We expect all employees to be respectful, professional, and follow GitHub policies on discrimination and harassment.”

The fired employee spoke with TechCrunch last week before GitHub announced its decision to reverse the firing. The man “says he is currently seeking counsel to ensure his family is protected, as well as figure out if he can receive damages or some other form of reconciliation” and that he “is waiting to engage with the company until he has legal representation in place,” TechCrunch wrote.

The fired employee said he was also threatened with being fired in October when he complained about a lack of diversity in GitHub leadership. “I feel like this could be an opportunity for GitHub to really do a purge and say, ‘Do we want white supremacists at this company and how do we get Black leaders into executive management?” he told TechCrunch.

Correction: This article originally misidentified GitHub’s now-former head of human resources.

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