GitHub walks back Jewish employee’s termination for using “Nazi” on Slack

An independent investigator found “significant errors of judgement” in the termination

GitHub has backpedaled after dismissing a Jewish employee for using the word "Nazi" in an online conversation about the Capitol riots. Executives posted an apology over the weekend, and the company’s head of HR has resigned.

The company had dismissed an unnamed employee who posted a message on a company Slack channel during the riots at the US Capitol building on January 6. The message warned: "stay safe homies, Nazis are about," along with a sad emoji.

After a complaint from another worker about the employee's use of the word, his manager and an HR representative fired him.  According to a Business Insider report, they cited "patterns of behavior" without further detail.

The firing generated a heated debate among GitHub staff. According to reports, 200 employees circulated a letter internally asking for clarity on the employee's dismissal. The letter also called for GitHub to take a strong stand against white supremacists and antisemitism.

The employee told Business Insider that as a Jew with family members who died in the Holocaust, he was genuinely worried about the presence of neo-Nazi groups in the Capitol, which were documented repeatedly during the riot.

GitHub's chief operating officer (COO) Erica Brescia walked things back in a statement posted to the GitHub blog on Sunday. The company called in an independent investigator on January 11 who revealed "significant errors of judgement and procedure," she said. Brescia added that, consequently, GitHub's head of HR resigned on January 16.

The company also reversed its decision to fire the employee and contacted his representative, Brescia said. She also reiterated statements that CEO Nat Friedman made internally to staff when the investigation began.

"GitHub condemns the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th and any and all belief systems that are discriminatory. Antisemitism, neo-Nazis, and white supremacy – along with all other forms of racism – are vile and have no place in our community," she said.

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

In a series of tweets posted on Saturday and reproduced in several outlets, GitHub's senior director of global HR services Gia Colosi commented: "GitHub was my forever job but not anymore. I am done with HR be kicked around [sic]".

She added: "We don't magically fire people unless we find back up. And if only leadership asks us [sic]. So to be clear why does HR take the fall?"

Colosi has since hidden her posts.

Microsoft, GitHub’s parent company,  responded to other political criticism from employees this month when workers called it out for donating to politicians who contested the election result.

This is the latest big tech firing that prompted calls for more tolerance and diversity. Last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the company's split with AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru, who insists that the company fired her for a paper that questioned its AI operations.

Featured Resources

Defeating ransomware with unified security from WatchGuard

How SMBs can defend against the onslaught of ransomware attacks

Free download

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

How artificial intelligence and machine learning could be critical to your business

Free download

The path to CX excellence

Four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Free download

Becoming an experience-based business

Your blueprint for a strong digital foundation

Free download

Recommended

StackHawk announces native dynamic application and API security testing for GitHub
cyber security

StackHawk announces native dynamic application and API security testing for GitHub

13 Aug 2021
GitHub is opening Codespaces to enterprises
software development

GitHub is opening Codespaces to enterprises

12 Aug 2021
GitHub Copilot is an AI tool that helps devs to write better code
software development

GitHub Copilot is an AI tool that helps devs to write better code

30 Jun 2021
GitHub bug bounty payouts surpass $1.5 million
Development

GitHub bug bounty payouts surpass $1.5 million

28 Jun 2021

Most Popular

What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit
exploits

Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit

14 Sep 2021
Google takes down map showing homes of 111,000 Guntrader customers
data breaches

Google takes down map showing homes of 111,000 Guntrader customers

2 Sep 2021