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Twitter: Employee Who Complained about Sexual Harassment via Twitter Fired

By Martha J. Zackin

Adria Richards is a self-described “endlessly enthusiastic technology evangelist.”  While attending a large technology conference in Santa Clara, California, Ms. Richards overheard two men sitting behind her making a series of crude, sexually inappropriate jokes.  She tweeted “not cool,” and asked for help in talking with the offending men.  The conference sponsors agreed with her, and spoke with the men.  One of the men took to Twitter on Ms. Richards’ behalf, tweeting that she "had every right to report me to [conference] staff, and I defend her position.”

Not so her employer.  That day, Ms. Richards was fired and a notice posted on her former employer’s blog.  Later that day, after a very public debate, the employer posted an update that expressed support for Ms. Richards’ right to report inappropriate behavior but taking issue with the manner in which she reported the behavior. Specifically, the employer stated that: 

Her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line. Publicly shaming the offenders – and bystanders – was not the appropriate way to handle the situation.

As we have previously reported, the National Labor Relations Board takes the position that posting complaints about working conditions on social media, made for the purpose of mutual aid and protection, are protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.  As we have also reported, EEOC retaliations complaints are at an all-time high.  Does anyone believe that this is the end of this story?

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Martha Zackin