Microsoft-owned GitHub is facing employee backlash after it reportedly terminated a Jewish worker for warning in a corporate Slack channel that there were “nazis” present at the U.S. Capitol riot.
As armed pro-Trump insurrectionists swarmed the Capitol on January 6 — at least one of whom was literally wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “Camp Auschwitz” — the former employee in question reportedly wrote in a public Slack channel, “Stay safe homies, Nazis are about,” alongside a frowny-face emoji.
According to Business Insider, the terminated employee, who wished to remain anonymous, is Jewish himself, and has several family members who died in the Holocaust.
The comment reportedly ignited an internal debate over “divisive” language used in a corporate Slack channel, and prompted a near-immediate slap on the wrist by an HR rep for using the word “Nazi” in the workplace. Two days later, the employee was terminated, with human resources citing unspecified “patterns of behaviour” in its justification of the firing.
“I did not know that, as a Jew, it would be so polarising to say this word,” the former employee wrote in a Slack group for Jewish employees shortly before he was terminated, according to Insider.
“We grew up saying [Nazi],” he continued. “It was a story we told because we had to — the decimation of whole lines of ancestry were at the hands of people who went by that title.”
The termination has prompted some 200 of GitHub’s nearly 1700 employees to sign on to an open letter demanding answers from management about why the employee was fired. In the letter, GitHub employees say that they no longer feel that the company provides a safe work environment, and ask the company to take a firmer stand against anti-Semitism and white supremacy.
In response to the letter, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman penned a message decrying the violence at the Capitol last week and said that the company “will take any and all appropriate action following a thorough investigation” into the employee’s termination.
“I, GitHub, and everyone on our leadership team condemn the attack on the US Capitol last week and any and all belief systems that are discriminatory,” Friedman wrote. “Antisemitism, neonazis, and white supremacy – along with all other forms of racism – are vile and have no place in the world, and especially no place in our community.”
In his final Slack message to coworkers, the terminated employee said that he would likely not work in tech again because of its “toxic” culture.
“The tech industry can be very insular,” the former employee told Insider. “This can be an opportunity for people to see white supremacy is a problem. It’s not just a cultural thing. It can be a structural thing.”