Monday, April 1, 2013

The Joke is On . . . ?

There are a multitude of lessons growing out of this story.  A female software developer attending a  conference was offended by sexist jokes told by the men sitting behind her.  She took a cell phone photo of the men, although she could not identify exactly who was speaking and who was listening.  Then she posted the photo with the allegation of the sexist joke-making on social media.

She was fired by her employer.
[The employer] said [the employee] put the company's business in danger, divided the developer community and could no longer be effective at the company.

One of the men in the picture was also fired by his employer.
"PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honourable behavior, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go," PlayHaven CEO Andy Yang said in a blog posting.

Take your pick among the lessons to develop from this scenario.  Were the employee dismissals legal under employment-at-will principles?. Was the posting of the photo and "shaming" of the men defamatory?  What if one of the men pictured was merely a bystander? Did her employer do the right thing (ethically and/or strategically) in dismissing her?  Did PlayHaven act ethically/properly in dismissing their employee?  Does the ease of access to a worldwide audience impose different legal/ethical considerations on those publicly reporting on the acts of other? Was the public reporting an invasion of privacy (was there a privacy interest)? Etc...

Here's a video about the incident that is WAY more hip than any of my posts could ever hope to be:

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