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SendGrid Fires Employee After Firestorm Over Inappropriate Jokes 1145

tsamsoniw writes "Hoping to strike a blow against sexism in the tech industry , developer and tech evangelist Adria Richards took to Twitter to complain about two male developers swapping purportedly offensive jokes at PyCon. The decision has set into motion a chain of events that illustrate the impact a tweet or two can make in this age of social networking: One the developers and Richards have since lost their jobs, and even the chair of PyCon has been harassed for his minor role in the incident."
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SendGrid Fires Employee After Firestorm Over Inappropriate Jokes

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  • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:07PM (#43240647)
    re: everyone else in the story - Adria, her employers, Mr-Hank, and his employer - all made dick moves,
    You are correct. Despite her gender, Adria was being a dick. I should have thought of that line for my comment below: Twitter-shaming. []
  • Homophobia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ddq ( 2421932 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:11PM (#43240691)
    Since the jokes were in reference to "big dongles" and forking a man's repo and made no references to women or female anatomy, it seems like Richards is actually being homophobic.
  • by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:13PM (#43240711)
    Yes. Political Correctness is the *mortal enemy* of Free Speech.
  • Re:More facetime (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djl4570 ( 801529 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:17PM (#43240761) Journal
    Anyone remember the tech advertisement "Lost the Dongle" that ran in just about every IT rag published back in the nineties. It featured a picture of a famous nude statue that was missing its "dongle".
  • Only in America? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NaughtyNimitz ( 763264 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:26PM (#43240889)

    Come on you puritan sods! Grow a pair of balls.
    Now if the developers made a sexual joke about that Adria woman , than I would consider this sexual harassment. But some wordplay? On Forking? And big dongles? What's next; "Oh no's, he said that we should go 'finger' the cullprit who broke into our unix account. Let's put tar and feathers on him and carry him around on a metal bar!"
    I am goddamn happy I live on the ole' Continent where you can swear profanely on the workfloor when you break your skull underneath your desk while searching for that loose USB cable or make funny comebacks to loose the tension like that female developer who shouted "that's what he said" after the frantic cry of the assistant server-admin "i can't get it up!".

    You are creating a generation of scared, stressed, puritan bastards. One visit to a Scottish , Flemish or Basque pub and they probably faint upon hearing the "feck this pissbeer" or "my, those are big jugs. No offense lady!"

  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:29PM (#43240935) Journal

    a) A conference is a public place. Taking photos there is no crime and reporting what you could hear by natural hearing neither.

    b) If you have twitter followers for some reason, what you write will be observed

    c) If you are somewhere representing a company on social media, and you use this channel for other things, no matter if you did it for the best and the worst, and these other things start to interfere with your capability to efficiently represent the company in a solely positive way, you will be fired. And rightly so. A company does not judge if you are right or wrong in doing something. They see somebody who can create a positive image for them. If you have such a job, then you have to know that creating unwanted attention which prevents you from doing the job gets you fired. Sorry thatâ(TM)s life. If you have a Job behind a desk, programming, you can do whatever you want on twitter.

  • by duckgod ( 2664193 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:29PM (#43240945)
    As a owner of a tech company I can say with all honesty that I don't discriminate at all when I hire. All I see when I am hiring is how much money you can make me. That is it. My employees are nothing more then an investment. That being said it is bullshit like this that makes me think twice about hiring women. When I hire a women I have to take into account the risk of a sexual harassment charge that does not really exist if I hire a male.
  • Re:Hurrah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by waerloga01 ( 308176 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:29PM (#43240949)

    Hardly. I think this blog post sums it up best. []. She didn't try and work with anyone, she wasn't out to correct anything. She was out use her bully pulpit to 1: make herself more important 2: hurt those that had the audacity to offend her. That said it doesn't excuse by ANY means the attitudes show both for and against her position that went well beyond the pale. What's more sad is at the VERY SAME conference she was offended at she made this jewel: []. Reeks of hypocrisy.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:33PM (#43240993)

    Firing Richards herself is the moronic thing.

    She was also there on the company dime, wasting her company's resources. Her company doesn't control the PyCon environment. Her company isn't paying her to moderate it. Sometimes being an adult includes tuning out annoyances and getting the job done. If you can't do this, then don't venture outside your company's sphere of control. Maybe the jokes were crass, but they weren't directed at her (or at anyone or any gender in particular).

    She got fired for not doing her job.

  • Re:Loosing Jobs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tylikcat ( 1578365 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:34PM (#43241011)

    I'm not even sure that this should be legally protected speech - but that the firings were unhelpful, I agree.

    There is a lot of hugely inappropriate sexually charged behavior at a lot of tech conferences. I mean, this isn't a revelation, right? And at times it makes being female at a tech conference really unpleasant. (And it often feels unsafe. Not in the least because it often is unsafe.) I think calling out the behavior was appropriate. And I'm not particularly worried about the medium being twitter. Seriously - look how quickly this escalated to threats of violence. Now imagine being a woman in a really male dominated environment - would you feel comfortable calling them out in person?

    (Note, I might. But I'm a 5' 11" martial arts instructor, and known to be straightforward, possibly to a fault, in personal communication.)

  • Re:Sad Sad Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:39PM (#43241093) Homepage

    Already did. She got fired too! She still feels justified in her position which indicates she didn't learn anything through her experience. Meanwhile the guy that got fired? Yeah... apologized publically AFTER getting fired as well as before.

    So seriously, if it's a question of conduct, I'd say the score was tied. But when it's a question of character? The lady loses and the man wins.

  • Re:Hurrah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:43PM (#43241157)
    You are a misandrist. She did not feel that sexual jokes were offensive. The evidence is sitting on her own twitter page where she posted her own sexual jokes from the same event. She was offended by men. By their existence and unwillingness to bow down before her perceived superior gender. This is an ongoing problem, and I know that I am tired of hearing how my son should not have the same rights or future opportunities because someone he has never met treated someone else that he has never met badly. If she wants to be a hero, the fist step is not behaving exactly like the villains.
  • Re:More facetime (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TENTH SHOW JAM ( 599239 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:44PM (#43241171) Homepage

    "I've got a dongle so big my desktop falls over when it authenticates" good
    "I'd like to stick my dongle into $objectOfAttraction" bad.
    "Dongle. Heh heh. He said Dongle" Just plain stupid, and not really funny.

    Ok I think I'm with you now.

  • Offended by Offense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snazzykazzy ( 2872503 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:18PM (#43241541)
    As a woman, "self-proclaimed nerd", I am highly offended by the actions of Adria Richards. Her offense offends me. Did anyone commit any wrongs towards her? Absolutely not. These men weren't talking to her, or even about her. Now, if one of them had pointed at her and said something like, "I'd like to use my big dongle on her" or something, then perhaps it would make sense to be offended. Even if that were so, who cares? If she wants to label herself with stereotypes, "nerds" are generally classified as socially-awkward and sexually frustrated. Why was she so surprised by their conversation? They weren't even being sexually explicit, they were cracking puns. I wish that I had been at the conference with her and seen her tweet. I would have found her, sat next to her, and whispered to her asking her if she's seen any big dongles recently. It's honestly women like this that make people not want to hire women. I would have been angry with her even if she had tried to settle this woman-to-man, so to say. There was nothing to settle, nothing to fix. No one did anything wrong. Her passive-aggressive attitude led to the firing to people who didn't deserve it.
  • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:39PM (#43241735)

    My boss recently told me that "someone" in the office had overheard me say something to another person and it made her feel "uncomfortable".

    And.... I'm supposed to do what with this information? I can't very well avoid saying something again if I don't know what, when, where, or to whom I said it in the first place, where it was apparently overheard by some anonymous 3rd person.

    On the other hand, if whoever I offended has just said, "Hey, that's gross you asshole", I would have apologized on the spot and been careful to never have a similar conversation near her again. Problem would have been solved.

  • Re:Twitter-shaming. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:48PM (#43241803)

    a number of people posed that same question to her when this started.. her response as to why she took it to twitter instead:

    "I didn't want to be heckled or have my experience denied."

    ironic, i think.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:48PM (#43241805)

    Why not blame the people actually doing the firing?

    Speaking as an employer who's had to make these sorts of decisions, it's tough to blame the people actually doing the firing because there are no black and white rules regarding sexual harassment. The law does not define a clear line at which point a remark crosses from being somewhat lewd to being outright offensive. But the law does make the employer liable if it does not take sufficient action in response to a sexual harassment claim. It's like having a speed limit which says "Don't drive too fast" without actually saying what speed is considered too fast.

    In that situation, your best (safest) option is to have a zero tolerance policy. Any remark which could in some way be construed as sexual harassment is prohibited, and grounds for firing (or at least warnings which can lead to termination). In practice it's not really zero tolerance - you have to weigh the potential for possible repercussions either way. But since the incident went public it's already in the "worst case repercussions" category and the employer probably felt they had no choice but to fire.

    Richards' firing is a bit different. It depends on her ex-company's policies. But most companies aren't out to make martyrs of themselves over political issues. Unless her position was one which gave her the authority to put her company (which presumably paid for her to be at the conference) into the spotlight over this issue, she overstepped her authority by publicizing this over her personal twitter feed. In most companies, that could be grounds for termination. (Note the parallel here - two guys making personal remarks at a company-funded trip, Richards making posts to her personal twitter feed about a company-funded trip. Moral of the story: Don't mix personal and work things. You ask companies not to butt into your personal life, but likewise you have to not mix your personal stuff with the company's.)

    If she did want to publicize it, she should've run it by her employers first. Then if they agreed, they could've then put out a press release or something saying this sort of thing going on a tech conferences created an uncomfortable environment for women, and really shouldn't be tolerated. Or she could've anonymized it on her personal twitter feed, saying that it happened at "a past conference" with no identifying details, thus insulating her current employer. Or she could've posted it here as Anonymous Coward since her identity is irrelevant to the incident she wished to publicize.

  • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:53PM (#43242335) Homepage Journal

    Apparently, it's only sexist if done by men (which is a very sexist attitude for her to have).

    I hope it's only a small road block on the road to real equality, but right now, yeah, men are often treated as guilty of being sexists, misogynists and chauvinists because they are men, and have to live to higher standards to prove they aren't. And those arseholes who give men a bad name by wholf-whistling at pretty girls, don't help the cause either - it just gives the extremists on the other side more fuel for their bigoted fire.

    Until the day it's just as distasteful for women to talk about men's dick size as it is for men to talk about women's cunt size, we have a ways to go.

    If a guy finds a girl's sex toys, it shows that he's a pervert.
    If a girl finds a guy's sex toys, it shows that he's a pervert.

  • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @09:55PM (#43242355)

    God forbid anyone TALK about their being differences between men and women. It drives me crazy what people will go through to make themselves feel victimized. If you can't overhear someone near you making a crude joke without feeling uncomfortable, you have a problem and it's not their joke. A persons insecurities are not the rest of the worlds fault.

  • They're at it again (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:09PM (#43242455)

    Once more, some overly politically correct social justice warrior with a blog and constant craving for attention via playing the victim makes the world a little worse. Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and everything else unbefitting a civilized society should be called out and fought against but political correctness is not that; it is just a scourge.

    ts sad that someone lost their job because this person (who lets not forget made her own dick jokes, and also said that 'black people can't be racist,' which goes to show you her character) felt the need to take offense at the non-offensive, but at least some justice was done. People like this need to grow up. But you know they won't. She'll find herself the victim her, a noble martyr fighting against the [insert conspiracy here], and other overly PC nutbags will offer support.

  • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:14PM (#43242479) Homepage

    > The reason why it is a federal case is that she shouldn't have to be the one to stand up and confront them.

    That's nanny state nonsense. If someone is doing you wrong then you stand up to yourself. You don't run for help first. You don't get a government bail out first. That is your last resort.

    Fend for yourself. Don't be helpless.

    A lady can speak up for herself if men aren't acting like proper gentlemen.

  • Just to say... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by houbou ( 1097327 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:18PM (#43242499) Journal
    People take themselves way too freaking seriously. A joke is a joke. If you take offense at this.. then you got a problem. If I'm fat and I hear a fat joke and it's funny, I will laugh. If I don't like that I'm fat, I can always try and lose weight. But jokes are based on sarcasm, wit and ridicules. Tweak of the extreme so to speak. When a person hearing a sex joke gets offended, that's a PC, "Politically Correct" people and they are the worse hypocrites on the planet. There is a saying, "Don't take life too seriously, you'll die anyways"..
  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sirsnork ( 530512 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:29PM (#43242587)

    Everyone says he shouldn't have been fired, but from what can be implied from the company press release's this may not have been his first incident of this nature.

    That may just be them covering their ass, but if not, and he has already had warnings for similar behavior then firing him may well have been the correct response. I tend to think that because both of these developers worked at the same company, and only one has been fired that this is the more likely scenario than them just getting rid of him

  • by aXis100 ( 690904 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @10:42PM (#43242697)

    I think people are understating how difficult it can be to confront people who cause offence

    So then go to the PyCon organisers in private and raise your complaint with them. They will then go and find the individuals, again in private and inform them of their infraction.

    Taking photos and using your position of influence to publicly shame people based on heresay is a severve form of harrasment. It's so severe that it even lost one guy his job over midly innapropriate comments. Dont you get it? The guy has a wife and kids and no income now... it's freaking tragic.

    Crusading blowhard deserved what she got, but in the end everyone has lost. It's very sad indeed.

  • Re:Twitter-shaming. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tofubeer ( 1746800 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:24PM (#43243005)

    Well let's see, how many defense lawyers try to bring in a rap victims background and actions into evidence to justify a rape accusation in the USA?

    Or this: "What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered." Who the f*** cares what the lasting effect on the guilty party is for committing rape? Really? Why would anyone care? How about the lasting effect on the victim?

    And to go along with that case: "After the sentencing, detectives notified the attorney general’s office of the alleged social media threats, DeWine’s office said. As a result, a 16-year-old girl was charged today with aggravated menacing for allegedly threatening the life of the victim via Twitter, and a 15-year-old was charged with menacing for allegedly threatening bodily harm via Facebook." Great, so you are a victim of rape, the accused are found guilty, and now people are angry at you...

    Perhaps you should actually look around you and see what is going on.

  • Lighten Up!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CanEHdian ( 1098955 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:28PM (#43243033)

    OMFG where have the times of the 60s and 70s gone?!!! Have the PENCIL-PUSHING PRICKS taken over HR now too? I remember the old days where your boss knew if you did a good job or not, and was able to substantiate that using proze and relevant examples that you didn't even knew (s)he knew about. Nowadays the pencil-pushing pricks have taken over, so they are staring over sheets filled with "metrics", comparing "actuals" to "targets". That's a trend going from the Top down, where the COO used to take over when the CEO stepped down; nowadays you will often see the CFO take over.... that's right, a glorified BOOK KEEPER running the company.

    And now it trickled down to the HR department... terminating someone's employment over some innuendo in a JOKE? And firing someone for saying that they didn't think it was funny?

    Do yourself a favour and go look at some videos from the late 60s, early 70s. How people rose up against the prude bourgeoisie. And in 2013 we're right back...

  • Re:More facetime (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 22, 2013 @01:05AM (#43243501)

    I am confident, but not wholly beyond reasonable doubt that she was completely out of line in this case. I've been to many Pycons -- but could not attend this one for personal reasons.

    There are a LOT of mediums to contact the staff including:
    twitter, irc, email, their phone numbers, booths in the hallway, and usually a dedicated conference room. In the keynotes there's usually two dozen of the AV in the aisles handling the microphones/audio. Reaching out to a staff member, at virtually any time of day save maybe three in the morning is not a problem in practice.

    While there is the...typical community and male software problem, Pycon is still astoundingly friendly compared to any other convention I have ever been to. Although I don't frequenty gay pride parades or civil rights groups... so I am comparing solely to technical conferences. Females, GLBTQ, people from multiple nations with varying degrees of english proficiency. Yes, many minorities are statistically underrepresented -- but it's still better than many other cons -- and community members constantly work to improve on diversity and representation.

    There are... frequent moments of less than professional behavior -- people that go out drinking beer, pizza, smuggling vodka into the venues. Welcome not just to to developer culture, but international society -- get over it, you oversensitive American clods. The django mascot is a freaking pony -- ask the community sometime. There's a bit of latent sexism in the back story, but that's the word that stick. Inane feature requests that are meaningless but make people really happy are called "ponies". Deal with it -- it's not an obscenity or a slur.

    I support Adria's inviolable right to free speech. And I also support the community backlash at her for exercising it imprudently. I don't support firing by the employers, but given the media backlash -- it's nearly inevitable. Adria also compromised the very virtue she advertised as ... from my shoes she appears nearly useless to any dev community that isn't largely female now (and if there were men, I'd be wary of sexual harassment claims filed against her as such an employer).

    Your theater example completely and utterly misses the fucking point.

    Adria self identifies as a programmer advocate, is a well read blogger -- but wasn't comfortable addressing two modest individuals in a room with 2500 witnesses. She was as safe as she could *ever* be in any crowd in that room.

    Worse than that -- far worse. Pycon is a community. A movie theater may be your local community by definition -- but it's not the same thing.

    There's 2500 people, and there's fairly good odds of me reading the blogs of many of them, sharing software, talking on google or IRC. These people aren't just colleagues or peers, they're friends and part of a community. They're people that have built the very software that I feed myself with every day, and some of them even use things I have sent back up to them. I've shared beer, deep dish pizza, learned about international politics, sent job references, recommendations and made lifelong friends.

    And the actions of *ALL* involved escalated a chilling affect wholly inappropriately.

    The developers joking behaved juvinilely -- and now we'll never know if they would have repaired it, because Adria escalated things so rapidly and publicly that there was no slowing it down.

    And as an "evangelist" and blogger, she should have known better. She tried to pick a cross to hang others on, and caught her own hand in the nail.

    Good riddance -- maybe people will learn to calm down and at least iniitially assume civility and good faith. There's time enough to go Rambo when that's proven wrong.

  • Re:True, but.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Friday March 22, 2013 @05:12AM (#43244351)

    Another good related discussion from a couple months ago :

  • Re:More facetime (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 22, 2013 @07:25AM (#43244855)

    here's an open request to geekdom - if this bitch gets a job anywhere, listen carefully to anything she says, and if she says anything that can be interpreted as offensive (like "good morning" - might refer to sex or "what time is the meeting" - might refer to a sexual liason), head to HR immediately and file a complaint about "inappropriate language in the workplace" - be sure to use the phrase "hostile work environment" in your complaint; that phrase is guaranteed to make HR shit bricks and will insure that everyone up to the CEO hears about it. I've seen more than one person fired because of that phrase, and no one should have to put up with that bitch - if you don't do it to her, she damn well will do it to you, and life is tough enough without some miserable cunt like her listening to private conversations and "interpreting" what is said to further her own ambitions.

    posted as AC so she doesn't try that shit on me...

  • Re:More facetime (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 22, 2013 @09:10AM (#43245497)

    My boss recently told me that "someone" in the office had overheard me say something to another person and it made her feel "uncomfortable".

    And.... I'm supposed to do what with this information? I can't very well avoid saying something again if I don't know what, when, where, or to whom I said it in the first place, where it was apparently overheard by some anonymous 3rd person.

    On the other hand, if whoever I offended has just said, "Hey, that's gross you asshole", I would have apologized on the spot and been careful to never have a similar conversation near her again. Problem would have been solved.

    deny it, even if it was true, but you can't just say "nuh uh" you have to sell it

    you can't argue logically against emotions like "being offended"

    so you argue back emotionally

    start by pretending to get really angry and say "well whoever said that is a God DamN LIAR!" and for emphasis punch something on the "liar".

    Then apologize for getting angry, then relate a totally made up personal story about how someone did the same thing you were accused of and you confronted them resulting in something bad happening to you. Follow that up with "since them I've been really sensitive about 'whatever you were accused of saying' and I would never say something like that"

    If you are convincing enough you just cast doubt on every future statement ever made by the person who accused you.


    Personally I hate the fact that the world works this way but its the world we have so learn to adapt.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.