Employee Gets Fired For Reporting Inappropriate Sexual Jokes Via Twitter

by Teresa Lu
Adria Richards, former Developer Evangelist for tech company SendGrid, recently lost her job because of the following complaint she tweeted about the men sitting behind her at a conference.

According to the detailed outline of the event in her blog, these men were incessantly cracking inappropriate sexual jokes during a presentation. The comments that ticked her off the most were sexual puns involving “forking” and “dongles”. Richards felt these remarks were not only uncomfortably distracting but very unprofessional. She defeatedly mentioned in her blog entry, “I was going to let it go. It had been a long week. A long month. I’d been on the road since mid February attending and speaking at conferences.” But apparently it went on for long enough that she just cracked.

After the above tweet was published, one of the men in the photo, whose online alias is Mr-Hank, was fired from his company. He soon released a public apology, saying that Richards “had every right to report me to staff, and I defend her position.” Amidst these series of events, what seems to be absurd is the community’s reactions to the incident. One user tweeted:

“Canceled my accout with @sendgrid today. I cannot do business with someone who supports a woman who gets a father fired over a joke.”

Another user bemoaned what he considered to be an attack on free speech:

“So basically, welcome to the Foucauldian panopticon, where you will get fired for talking in public. even worse when Google Glass arrives.”

As a result of such reactions, SendGrid fired Richards in an effort to dissociate the company from the incident. Here is the crux of the madness: the most disappointing characters in this story are not Mr-Hank and his friend, but the internet onlookers who spoke out against Richards.

Many commenters, including SendGrid, believe that such a deliberate action by the woman was unwarranted. Was Richards crossing a line by outing these guys on Twitter? Allow me to put it this way: I am not often offended by sexual jokes because I myself am a generous fountain of them. However, any grown-ass human being, especially a working professional, should know that some people (men and women alike) are offended by such jokes, and even more so when you’re at a conference where it is against the code of conduct. Simply put, the defense of Mr-Hank is difficult, if not completely nonsensical. He made the mistake of being indiscreet and was unlucky enough to be sitting behind a tired, stressed-out woman, who may or may not have, on a different day, simply turned around and told him to cut it out. That’s unfortunate for him but not so much to merit real sympathy.

In a professional context, we can say that Mr-Hank was fired for misconduct, but there is really nothing Adria Richards can be verifiably charged with. Obviously, she was fired because many people in SendGrid’s public circle hated her for being a bitch about something that bothered her immensely – surely a disappointing reality for someone who was just pissed that the modern workplace was not as professional as she hoped. 


via The Atlantic Wire, But You’re A Girl, USA Today, BetaBeat
images via The Atlantic Wire, Pinterest

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