Tech & Work

Off-color remarks at conference result in two developers getting fired

Sexual jokes made by a couple of male attendees at the Python Developer Conference are overheard and two firings result.

I'd like to get some stats on how much the workload at the ACLU has increased since the advent of Twitter and Facebook. Not only are most people blissfully unaware of the consequences of social media posting, but the line between inappropriate and appropriate has become more hazy, causing more firing cases to hit the court room.

Try this one on for size: Last month, Adria Richards, a developer evangelist for e-mail vendor SendGrid, attended Python developer conference n Santa Clara, CA. During one of the sessions, two male developers sitting behind Richards made a couple of sexual jokes about a technical term.

Richards tweeted "Can someone talk to these guys about their conduct? I'm in lightning talks, top right near stage, 10 rows back #pycon." She also took a picture of the guys and posted it on her blog.

The result was that one of the developers was fired from his employer. Richards was also fired from SendGrid. Now, I know, you're saying you can kind of see the two developers getting fired, but Richards? She was not fired because she had a problem with the language from those guys. She was fired because she went public with it, which divided the dev community she is supposed to be working with as an evangelist. I can see their point but I'm sure there's going to be legal aspects involved in defining what is protected speech under Title VII.

Richards maintains that she was doing her part in getting people to change behavior that might be offputting to future female developers. Of course, this didn't keep her from getting rape and death threats on Twitter.

Here's the kicker for me: The developer who was fired issued this statement:

She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate. Let this serve as a message to everyone, our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact. I will be at pycon 2014, I will joke and socialize with everyone but I will also be mindful of my audience, accidental or otherwise. Again, I apologize.

Did he have to have this experience to understand that "our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact"? So, basically, he is apologizing for getting caught saying inappropriate things.

I'm sure everyone in this situation sees himself or herself as the victim. What do you think?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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