Github made a mistake firing someone, now what?

Github made a mistake of firing an employee and almost a week later is seeking to rehire them. Let me try to go through the timeline of events and speak on what Github should be doing different (not just seeking to rehire).

On January 12th, there was an exclusive post on Business Insider that Github fired an employee who posted on the company Slack (on January 6th) telling employees to stay safe (due to the violence happening in DC), and two days later they were terminated (HR cited unspecified “patterns of behaviour”).

Once employees at Github found out about this, 200 people (out of around 1,700 employees at Github) signed an open letter to Github (which I have not found on the public internet) “asking management for answers about the firing of that employee” and they also asked Github to take a firmer stand against anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

On January 11th the CEO of Github sent a letter to employees to denounce the siege on the Capitol, and that they were looking into the circumstances surrounding the employee’s termination (which is published in full on the Github blog). On that same day Github hired an outside company to conduct their own investigation.

On January 15th the investigation revealed many errors of judgment and procedure, and the head of HR took personal accountability and resigned the next morning (January 16th). They are also seeking to reverse the firing decision.

However it looks like the former employee won’t want to be rehire if offered, the fired employee said to TechCrunch “This type of stuff had been said before. It happened with the ICE stuff where the company said let’s have discussions but then if you mention ICE, you get fired. I used to believe in this company, but now I don’t.”

TechCrunch also reported (in the same article) that as the fired employee kept talking about the lack of diversity at the leadership level, they said they found their job at risk. “When I kept talking about it, I got threatened being fired in October,” they said. “Both my managers had to come completely to my defence and beg them not to fire me when I pointed out how the sales team maybe has just two people of colour.”

However, “upon their termination, the former employee said the company gave them two paychecks and sent them on their way. They said they would be open to some form of reconciliation, whether in the form of damages, healthcare coverage or something else.” And added “If I had a magic wand, I’d love for the employees at GitHub to be able to have a union and represent people from marginalized communities.”

This doesn’t just happen so quickly out of the blue, this sort of thing comes from the top down or is a ways that people are trained to work at the company. As well, Github wants this all to be done quickly so that they can continue to not be in the news for bad press. If their isn’t any bad press about them, then more people will sign up which of course means for money for them.

What should be done different? The firing shouldn’t have been done so quickly, and they talk about diversity on their website from the former employee they don’t practice what they talk about. They should also end their contract with ICE (United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) immediately.

Github is still going to be the place many coders go and will continue to go because it’s so well known, but I really hope everyone at Github (from the leadership all the way down) learn the mistake and do better in the future.

Huge thanks to the former employee for speaking out, to the journalists & reporters for covering this, and the current GitHub employees for raising their voices in an open letter and saying this isn’t right. A majority of the time when something like this happen it happens quietly and nobody cares.

In January 2021 I’m trying an experiment, I’m going to be posting at least 2 blog posts per week. This is not only to see how the engagement is, but how my writing goes over during the time. As always you can contact me directly if you have any thoughts or opinions on this or what I’ve written on. This is post number 57 as part of 100 Days To Offload.


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