When GitHub announced cofounder Tom Preston-Werner was stepping down after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, the company was very vague as to what actually happened. GitHub wanted to apologize for how it handled the situation and is giving new insight into what happened before, during and after the investigation.
“We failed to admit and own up to our mistakes, and for that I’m sorry,” CEO Chris Wanstrath wrote on the company blog. “GitHub has a reputation for being transparent and taking responsibility for our actions, but last week we did neither. There’s no excuse. We can do a lot better.”
(Related: GitHub’s Tom Preston-Werner steps down)
The investigation began after former GitHub developer Julie Ann Horvath publicly quit due to claims of gender-based harassment, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
Last week, GitHub announced that while the investigation found the company hadn’t done anything illegal, a third-party investigator did find there were mistakes and errors of judgment made.
While GitHub wasn’t able to give specifics into each claim because of a confidentiality agreement, the company was able to provide some context.
In regards to founder allegations, the investigation did find that cofounder Tom Preston-Werner acted inappropriately with “confrontational conduct, disregard of workplace complaints, insensitivity to the impact of his spouse’s presence in the workplace, and failure to enforce an agreement that his spouse should not work in the office,” according to Wanstrath. As a result, Preston-Werner offered his resignation, which GitHub accepted.
In regards to allegations of misconduct made by Horvath about an unnamed engineer, the investigation was unable to find any evidence that supported her allegations.
In regards to GitHub’s working environment, the investigator didn’t find any evidence supporting Horvath’s sexual and gender-based harassment claims.
“Employees were asked about their experiences here, good and bad. Women at GitHub reported feeling supported, mentored and protected at work, and felt they are treated equitably and are provided opportunities,” wrote Wanstrath.
The third-party investigator in charge of the case was Rhoma Young. According to Wanstrath, Young has a reputation of conducting fair and impartial investigations, has more than 30 years of human resources experience, and has worked with every type of organization. Over a four-week period, Young interviewed more than 50 employees—including Horvath—and reviewed evidence including e-mails, text messages, code and transcripts.
As a result of Young’s findings, GitHub hired an experienced head of human resources and have “clearly documented channels of communications to make sure problems are dealt with more effectively.” GitHub is working on more changes and initiatives, which it plans to announce in May.
“We work in a world where inequality exists by default and we have to overcome that,” Wanstrath wrote. “Bullying, intimidation, and harassment, whether illegal or not, are absolutely unacceptable at GitHub and should not be tolerated anywhere. GitHub is committed to building a safe environment for female employees and all women in our community.”