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GitHub Founder Resigns Following Harassment Investigation 182

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the don't-be-mean dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Late Yesterday, GitHub concluded its investigation regarding sexual harassment within its work force, and although it found no evidence of 'legal wrongdoing,' Tom Preston-Werner, one of its founding members implicated in the investigation resigned. In its statement, GitHub vows to implement 'a number of new HR and employee-led initiatives as well as training opportunities to make sure employee concerns and conflicts are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.' Julie Ann Horvath, the former GitHub employee whose public resignation last month inspired the sexual harassment investigation, found the company's findings to be gratuitous and just plain wrong."
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GitHub Founder Resigns Following Harassment Investigation

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  • a... what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Tom Preston-Werner, one of its founding members implicated in the investigation a... resigned.

    a is for apple, but that doesn't fit the sentence.

  • wife at the office (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @08:34AM (#46813877)

    the claim is from a woman who got upset over their use of "meritocracy", because judging on merit alone is wrong. you should give bonus points for race, gender identity, and financial background.

    seriously, the only problem I saw was the not-employed-by-the-company wife thinking she was in charge when the CEO wasn't around. I have worked for a few small businesses where it's like that. the wife/mom just walks in and starts bossing people around, sometimes even using employees to do personal errands.

    • by jjohnson (62583)

      It's so cute that you think the term "meritocracy" is meaningful, especially in the context of Silicon Valley.

      • Are you implying that the term itself has no meaning, because I can promise you that it does. Perhaps you are rejecting the notion of meritocracy instead? Well then you're just an idiot and should go complain about it on Tumblr. Or maybe you are claiming that Silicon Valley is not a meritocracy, in which case your comment is pointless, because the actual state of reality does not mean that something cannot be striven for.
        • by jjohnson (62583)

          The term itself has a dictionary meaning, but in a practical sense it's one of the lies that startups and HR departments tell themselves about themselves and their employees (like "we're passionate about changing how payments are processed" or "we only hire rockstar ninjas") to avoid dealing with difficult real world concerns.

          I have no problem with the concept as an ideal, but as with many other practical lies, it's as often used as a bludgeon, as a way to dismiss external factors, and as a means of post fa

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      That's not why she objected to the word at all, don't try to twist her words. She objected to a sign proclaiming Github to be a meritocracy because it isn't, and saying it is just denies that there is even a problem.

      • by Znork (31774)

        As far as I can tell, she objected to github claiming to be a meritocracy because other feminists would bully her and other females at github about it and wouldn't let them be in their clubs. Which seems fairly on par for that specific social context. We all have our cultural norms to conform to.

        And the problem with meritocracy isn't that it isn't a meritocracy, the problem is that people who have fewer advantages have less opportunity to prove their merit or to reach their capacity (even besides all forms

  • Good. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527)

    It's 2014, but you wouldn't know it, by looking on here.

    Male Slashdotters -- think of how you'd feel, if somebody powerful was sexually harassing your wife, (I know, alien concept for many Slashdotters, but bear with me), mother or sister, and could leverage that power to do what they like with impunity. Not a good feeling now, is it?

    Criminal, bullying, and anti-social behaviour should always be caught out and punished. It's good to see somebody being made an example out of.

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

      by erikkemperman (252014) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @08:43AM (#46813931)

      I mostly agree with you, on this occasion. Except one detail: this founder nor his wife were part of the harassment accusations. I suppose it's just a bit unfortunate, if understandable, that the victim combined all her grievances in a single blog post. But the sexual harassment bit was about someone else. So an example has not been made actually, because that guy was apparently promoted!

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:36AM (#46814339)

      Except that, we have no idea what happened. The problem with harassment is that it's a he said/she said thing. There is one allegation, from one person and we have no idea about either persons integrity. He quit but it may very well just been out of disgust. Or maybe they were having an affair and it got out of hand. We have no idea. Judging either of them based on no other evidence than what they've both said would be wrong. If there were more allegations, if the guy hadn't been working there for years without incident, I might have another opinion. Yes, men do say things to women they shouldn't. But there are also plenty of women out there that will use harassment as a revenge tactic against men they dislike. I have no idea which happened here, so I reserve judgement until there is more evidence.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Except that, we have no idea what happened. The problem with harassment is that it's a he said/she said thing. There is one allegation, from one person and we have no idea about either persons integrity. He quit but it may very well just been out of disgust. Or maybe they were having an affair and it got out of hand. We have no idea. Judging either of them based on no other evidence than what they've both said would be wrong. If there were more allegations, if the guy hadn't been working there for years without incident, I might have another opinion. Yes, men do say things to women they shouldn't. But there are also plenty of women out there that will use harassment as a revenge tactic against men they dislike. I have no idea which happened here, so I reserve judgement until there is more evidence.

        Some of the claims made can be independently reviewed (not by us, but by someone with access to). Like how blatantly Fatal Attraction-driven the code rejects where, or if they actually made sense. Go through a number of them and you can quickly spot a bad pattern if there is a bad pattern. Also with some of the communication around all of this. And the company/founder lawyers probably already have a good idea of the outcome of such a review.

      • Except that, we have no idea what happened. The problem with harassment is that it's a he said/she said thing.

        The real problem is that, aside from a few well publicized situations, women invariably do NOT speak out about legitimate sexual harassment. It is much easier to a person's psyche to keep your head low and just try to avoid the perpetrator, keep your mouth shut, and pretend it's not going on. Coming out in the public with the situation leads to hate threats and doubts about your employability. Supposing that the man might be the victim goes against occam's razor. Unless you are personally involved, then

        • The ironic part of your argument is that, to accept it, you have to generalize your opinion of both men and women. You need to accept the stereotypes you've put forth. Which is exactly the kind of thing harassment is about. I deal in facts, not generalizations. Accusations require proof, not guesses based on the history of your side of the gender gap.

      • We DO have an idea what happened. Read rabtech's insightful comment: http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

        Harassment claims are not always he said/she said things - that is a pretty gross generalization. In this case there were plenty of witnesses, as well as admissions (direct and tacit) from the company itself!
    • It's good to see somebody being made an example out of.

      It's always better if you get the right guy...

    • by Mdk754 (3014249)
      Why make your point with an attack on Slashdotters? What value did that add?

      Also what makes you so informed in the details of this situation that you can say he's being made an example of fairly? From the information on the web, this infantile woman can't get along with anybody in the workplace, and cried wolf. What about the investigation which basially came up with nothing? What about all the details in her story that were left out and revealed elsewhere?

      Before you hop on the fact that the founder r
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      It is 2014. In the year 2014, we all know that sexual harassment charges are often wildly overblown and nothing but a weapon of revenge. Remember Donglegate?

      I love your witch hunt mentality. The guilty ones are out there somewhere, and if we tag a few innocents along the way, that's OK because nobody is innocent. They're all guilty of being men, all men are rapists, and go ahead and throw in race somewhere as well.

      • I'll give you that the sexual harassment label is over-applied. But to leap from that to "nothing but a weapon of revenge", i.e. that no sexual harassment charge ever has any merit, is leaping quite a bit too far.

    • It sounds like you only read the summary. If you had taken the time to actually gather the facts about this situation you'd realize it wasn't even a case of sexual harassment. It was a case of an employee being more concerned with a crusade of political correctness than actually doing her job. Women like Julie Ann Horvath who intentionally antagonize those who aren't perfectly politically correct (and in this case, her idea of perfectly politically correct is one helluva stretch -- if you think the word 'me

      • by jjohnson (62583)

        Women like Julie Ann Horvath who intentionally antagonize those who aren't perfectly politically correct

        I didn't realize that complaining about your commits being vengefully reverted by the guy you wouldn't fuck, was antagonizing, and demanding of an unreasonable level of political correctness. So sorry!

  • by Pec (127751)

    This this has gone insane. Now everybody is subject to a "Harassment" claim on whatever the person afected feels. This will turn into idiotic work environment, cut cummunication between workers, and send the organization into a bureaucratic nightmare, to finally kill it.

    • by SirSlud (67381)

      The vacuous thing about the slippery slope argument is we can't drag you out in public and have you admit you were wrong a couple of years down the road.

  • and her future job prospects. I understand that she was wronged but I think social media is the wrong way to go about resolving the problem. Reading her twitter comments made me cringe. The Internet doesn't exactly let you take comments back. I'm saying she is in the wrong at all but damn.

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:14AM (#46814153) Homepage

    Or, you know, just anyone who gives half a shit would do.

    Tom Preston-Werner, one of its founding members implicated in the investigation a... resigned

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:27AM (#46814269)

    Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe one of the reason tech workers get a bad rap is because of little kids like this? When people are put in charge of an environment like this, and they don't have the self-control to handle themselves, no one will grow up and every non-techie will point out the out of control nerd farm.

    One of the things that does bother me about our chosen profession is the...lack of professionalism. I'm not saying everyone has to live in a PC world with no expression of opinion, etc. But, you would think that by one's 20s (and beyond in some cases!) one would have enough self-control to realize what sexual harassment is. I'm sure there are all sorts of mitigating circumstances that will be cited, etc. but I've just never had the urge to harass female colleagues. Usually, I'm too busy doing work at work to even think about it. I'm a guy, and I probably wouldn't want to work somewhere like GitHub, or be a Linux kernel developer, etc. In my opinion, it's not unreasonable to say that an office shouldn't be run like a strip club. I see a lot of posts accusing people of being overly PC and how they should be allowed to harass whoever they want without restrictions. I'm betting that most people are referring to the "sexual harassment training" that HR in large organizations has to give. It's silly, yes. But you know why we have it? Because some people are morons when it comes to personal behaviour.

    I would be all for the IEEE, ACM or some other organization lobbying for all software and systems engineers to be lumped into the main body of the engineering profession. People could be licensed and responsible for their work, there would at least be a code of ethics on paper, etc. And, training would be formalized so that people would at least have a grounding in the fundamentals. PEs have to at least pass an exam that demonstrates they were paying attention in their college classes.

    • by gorzek (647352)

      This is not really an issue across the entire software industry, but rather a particular subset: the Silicon Valley (and sometimes New York City) startup run by people in their 20s who think they are going to reshape the software industry (if not the entire world.) Bad attitudes also persist into video game development studios, though the environments are perhaps not as bad. I'm sure it varies a lot from place to place.

      Larger and more mature software organizations are by nature far more risk-averse, so they

      • by jjohnson (62583)

        Good points all, but I would one thing to your diagnosis that this is particularly bad in Silicon Valley: when you create a culture that celebrates "disruption" and sees rule-breaking as entrepeneurialism, you're almost certain to have a much harder time living within social boundaries that are the result of a lot of hard-earned lessons.

        Rules can be profitably broken, but doing so tends to require understanding those rules in the first place and figuring out why some particular point is no longer worth obey

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I'm sure there are all sorts of mitigating circumstances that will be cited, etc. but I've just never had the urge to harass female colleagues. Usually, I'm too busy doing work at work to even think about it.

      Me neither, but I also would like to add that I haven't exactly had a lot of opportunities to harass female colleagues. For instance, where I'm currently employed, there's only two female "colleagues" I could harass if I wanted to. One is the office secretary (who isn't much to look at), who I almost

      • I kinda wonder if some men in this profession, growing up with almost no women around in school and later in work, develop poor attitudes about women largely because there just aren't any around.

        I think that's part of it, though I'd be hesitant to paint everyone with the stereotypical "mom's basement" brush. I've met some people like this, and they really live up to the stereotype, but this is becoming less and less of a reality these days. Feel free to provide counterexamples. :-)

        Every time someone says we

    • I commented on this just yesterday.

      I really, really don't think we need PE-style licensing professionalism for most software. Example: Facebook lets anybody commit code that goes straight to the public site. I guess you're probably supposed to test it before you hit commit and it immediately goes live. Is this an issue? Does Facebook crash often? Does it even matter?

      In the situations where good software is really, really important -- like, say, airplanes -- we already have regulations in place to deal

    • Tech workers don't have a bad rep, outside of the minds of looney ideologues like Adria Richards. Construction workers have a bad rep. Tech workers have a reputation for being shy retiring introverts.

  • Translation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rabtech (223758) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:31AM (#46814295) Homepage

    Translation of GitHub's weasel words: "Our lawyers told us not to admit to anything or we could be liable in a lawsuit. The company we hired to tell us we aren't liable in a lawsuit told us we aren't liable in a lawsuit."

    Maybe Horvath isn't entirely in the right here but it is clear that the co-founder must have intimidated her as she claimed and/or let his wife (a non-employee) run amok. GitHub even admitted as much when the original story broke and re-banned his wife from the building. GitHub's legaleze non-statement doesn't address this at all.

    The anonymous medium post is being given far more credence than it deserves because it fits the narrative people want to have about the story. Just be honest... You want the truth to be that Horvath somehow did wrong and brought this on herself because the alternative is that a fun cool company that has good technology also did a bad thing.

    Let us not forget that Horvath did not bring any of this up in the first place - she simply quit. It was an anonymous person (that was suspected of being the founder's wife at the time) who posted about it, thus eliciting a reply from Horvath.

    Again, according to Horvath, the supposed "investigators" never bothered to contact her until a day or two before wrapping up the "investigation". It seems very clear GitHub hired them to obtain a foregone conclusion.

    I don't see how any of this is shocking. It is 100% believable (and by Occam's razor probably true) that the founder's wife was allowed to run around like she owned the place, got into a conflict with Horvath, then when it blew up Preston-Werner jumped to his wife's defense (understandable) without thinking about the implications of allowing your non-employee relative to even put you in that kind of situation to begin with; he certainly didn't consider what it would be like for an employee to be cornered by a co-founder over it. Then when it became public, they called the lawyers, circled the wagons, etc. I also would be shocked if some of the anonymous stories are by GitHubbers who are just repeating internal rumors and rising to defend the company they like, without any actual direct knowledge of what happened.

    • I'm assuming that there will be no active investigation of GitHub unless Horvath files a lawsuit. To me, I'm curious about the liability of the company because of TPW's wife's actions (IF TRUE). From [techcrunch.com]:

      "She says that the wife of the founder continued to show up at the office, sit next to her and “glare” at her for extended periods of time “as if trying to provoke a reaction.”

      and...

      "HR eventually asked the wife to not be on the same floor as Horvath. But according to Horvath’s

  • by GoCrazy (1608235) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:39AM (#46814369)
    and airing out personal and professional problems to the world, is the allowance of mob justice. Even though they found no wrongdoing or harassment after a legitimate investigation, it didn't matter; Preston and his wife had already undergone trial by media.

    From the previous article where Horvath aired out her grievances with the company, I was disappointed to realize accusations of company-wide sexual harassment were misleading and that 95% of her problems were with Preston's wife. I don't know why that was a problem that needed to be dealt with publicly. It was dramatic.

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