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Fired GitHub employee who warned co-workers about Nazis is seeking legal counsel

·3-min read
A pedestrian walks past the GitHub Inc. offices in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 4, 2018. Microsoft Corp. is buying GitHub for $7.5 billion in stock, bringing in house a community of 28 million programmers who publish code openly and extending a shift away from a strategy of shrouding its software in secrecy. Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On the day a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, a worried GitHub employee warned his co-workers in the D.C. area to be safe.

After making a comment in Slack saying, “stay safe homies, Nazis are about,” a fellow employee took offense, saying that type of rhetoric wasn’t good for work, the former employee told me. Two days later, he was fired, with a human relations representative citing a “pattern of behavior that is not conducive to company policy” as the rationale for his termination, he told me.

In an interview with TechCrunch, the now-former employee said he was genuinely concerned about his co-workers in the area, in addition to his Jewish family members.

TechCrunch agreed to keep the identity of the terminated employee confidential due to fears of his and his family’s safety.

As Business Insider first reported, his firing led to employees circulating an internal letter asking GitHub to denounce white supremacy and Nazis. The employees also wanted answers about his firing. That led to GitHub CEO Nat Friedman telling employees the company would investigate the termination of the employee.

Now, the terminated employee 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. The fired employee said GitHub has reached out to him for help in the internal investigation, but is waiting to engage with the company until he has legal representation in place.

Still, he said he is not optimistic about the investigation.

“I am 90% sure it’s not genuine,” the terminated employee said of Friedman’s response. “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.”

Similar to what some employees are asking, the terminated employee sees this as an opportunity for GitHub to take a stance on white supremacy.

He said, "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?’ "

The latter is something he said he’s been asking for since he joined GitHub. But as he kept talking about the lack of diversity at the leadership level, he said he found his job at risk.

“When I kept talking about it, I got threatened being fired in October,” he said. “Both my managers had to come completely to my defense and beg them not to fire me when I pointed out how the sales team maybe has just two people of color.”

Update 1/16: The fired GitHubber has since clarified that he meant the sales leadership team, rather than the sales team as a whole.

In a blanket statement to TechCrunch about the contents of this article, a GitHub spokesperson said:

We take all complaints of this nature very seriously. We are actively investigating the situation.

Upon his termination, the former employee said the company gave him two paychecks and sent him on his way. He said he would be open to some form of reconciliation, whether in the form of damages, healthcare coverage or something else. While he’s not looking for his job back, he says he would like to see more worker power at GitHub.

“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,” he said.

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