GitHub on Sunday said it was sorry for firing a Jewish employee who sent a message warning colleagues to “stay safe homies, Nazis are about,” on Jan. 6, the day President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the election.
In a blog post, GitHub’s chief operating officer Erica Brescia said the company had hired an outside investigator to look into the incident and that the investigation had “revealed significant errors of judgment and procedure.” Given the findings, Brescia stated that GitHub had immediately gotten in touch with the employee to offer him his job back. She affirmed that GitHub’s head of human resources had taken personal accountability for the incident and had resigned from the company on Saturday.
“To the employee we wish to say publicly: we sincerely apologise,” Brescia said.
Besides the apology, Brescia also highlighted a series of statements that she and CEO Nat Friedman had shared with employees in response to the incident in recent days. About 200 of GitHub’s nearly 1,700 employees signed an internal letter asking the company’s management for answers regarding the firing of the employee as well as a firmer stance against anti-Semitism and white supremacy, Business Insider reported.
“Employees are free to express concerns about Nazis, antisemitism, white supremacy or any other form of discrimination or harassment in internal discussions. We expect all employees to be respectful, professional, and follow GitHub policies on discrimination and harassment,” the blog stated.
The above is in stark contrast to the recent incident. According to Business Insider, which first reported the incident, when the employee sent the “stay safe homies, Nazis are about,” message in the company’s internal Slack, another employee criticised the aforementioned employee for using divisive rhetoric. The exchange set off an intense conflict that had many employees taking sides.
You can see screenshots of the conflict below, which were obtained by the Verge.
The guy on the left still works at GitHub. The guy on the right was fired :/ pic.twitter.com/daF591s7Z7
— Zoë Schiffer (@ZoeSchiffer) January 15, 2021
That same day, the human resources department chastised the Jewish employee for using the word “Nazi” in the workplace. Two days later, the employee was terminated for unspecified “patterns of behaviour,” the outlet stated.
Before his corporate accounts were deactivated, the employee wrote about the experience in a Slack group for Jewish employees. He said he “did not know that, as a Jew, it would be so polarising to say this word.”
“We grew up saying [Nazi],” the employee wrote in the Slack group, per Business Insider. “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.”
GitHub refused to explain if it had fired the employee for saying “Nazi” in the immediate aftermath of the incident, which prompted some of the company’s workers to start saying “Nazi” in Slack to reference the Capitol rioters to protest what they consider to be unfair treatment, according to the Verge.
“Others have already said so, but just want to say it explicitly myself – I think that nazis were present at some protests on Jan 6, and that it’s very scary to see those ideas on display,” a senior engineer wrote a company Slack channel titled #inclusion-belonging.
Groups that held Nazi, neo-Nazi views and anti-Semitic sentiments were among the rioters who tried to mount an insurrection at the nation’s capital. A report by the Rutgers Miller Centre for Community Protection and Resilience and the Network Contagion Research Institute identified at least half a dozen neo-Nazi or white supremacists groups involved in the attack.
Some rioters proudly displayed their affiliations to these gross ideologies in plain sight, such as the man wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt. He was subsequently arrested.