Adria Richards, the developer evangelist who was fired after tweeting an image of two men she heard making sexist jokes, may have a strong case if she decides to take her former employer to court.
Richards recounted on her blog, butyouareagirl.com, that she was seated in a ballroom at a technology conference in Santa Clara, Calif. when the men behind her started talking about “big dongles” in an inappropriate manner. After hearing their remarks, Richards turned around, took a photo of two men and posted it on Twitter with their alleged comments. Here’s how it played out:
The PyCon Conference organizers publicly thanked Richards’ for her tweets but hours later (after pressure from different online communities) her employer fired her.
“We understand that Adria believed the conduct to be inappropriate and support her right to report the incident to PyCon personnel. To be clear, SendGrid supports the right to report inappropriate behavior, whenever and wherever it occurs. What we do not support was how she reported the conduct,” read a statement from SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin.
Rob Pattison, a San Francisco attorney who represents employers for the Jackson Lewis law firm, told the Mercury News defending SendGrid’s decision to fire Richards would be “tough.”
“The law is strong in protecting people who make complaints of harassment, or who participate in an investigation about complaints of harassment,” Pattison told the Mercury News.
Therese Lawless, a San Francisco attorney who represents employees in employment and discrimination cases does not know Richards but said Richards would have a “groundbreaking case” if it went to court because her complaint was made on social media.
“I like it,” Lawless said. “She has a case.”
“They’re basically retaliating against her for speaking out about sexual harassment,” Lawless said. “Oftentimes, employers say their excuse is that ‘We want this person out of the workforce because they don’t fit into the culture, they don’t get along with their co-workers.’ But she’s in a situation where she’s speaking about inappropriate behavior.”
Richards has not made any additional public comments since her blog posts were published on her site butyouareagirl.com. At the time this story was published her site was inactive and it appears it was taken down due to continuous denial of service attacks. As Deanna Zandt points out at Forbes.com, Richards has also been the target of “death threats, rape threats, racist slurs (including the N-word, comments on her religious heritage, and more), [and] doxxing of her personal info.” Stay tuned to Colorlines.com as we’ll bring you more analysis on the race dynamics of this story this week.