September 17th, 2016

FSF Says Firing Wasn’t Discrimatory

Both Richard Stallman and John Sullivan have issued statements concerning the allegations made against the FSF by Libreboot’s lead developer.

On Friday we reported that Libreboot’s lead developer, Leah Rowe, had posted a notice to a GNU mailing list, removing her project from GNU. The reason she gave was that a friend employed by the Free Software Foundation, had been dismissed for discriminatory reasons. “The Free Software Foundation recently fired a transgendered employee of the FSF, just for being trans…,” she wrote. “I’m declaring here and now to the whole world that Libreboot is no longer part of the GNU project.”

FSF logoFriday afternoon after we published our report, Richard Stallman, founder and president of FSF, posted a brief, unofficial statement in an email to the thread around Rowe’s email. “The dismissal of the staff person was not because of her gender,” he said. “Her gender now is the same as it was when we hired her. It was not an issue then, and it is not an issue now.”

Later Friday evening, John Sullivan, executive director of the FSF, posted an official statement to the organizations website. “This morning, an open email circulated in which the author said that the Free Software Foundation ended a relationship with one of our employees for discriminatory reasons,” he began. ‘Although it is our usual policy not to comment publicly on internal personnel matters for privacy reasons, we felt it necessary to state unequivocally that the allegations made in that email are untrue.”

This is pretty much what I expected to hear, and not because organizations always deny allegations of discrimination whether true or not. Both the FSF and the GNU projects dedication to “freedom” extend beyond the realm of software and into human rights. The discrimination alleged by Ms Rowe would not be in keeping with the character of the organizations.

“While we understand that it is difficult whenever an employment relationship ends, the suggestion that the separation was a result of discriminatory animus is unfounded,” Sullivan’s statement concluded. “In the interest of protecting the privacy of all involved, we expect this to be our last public statement on the matter. We wish our former employee the best in all future endeavors.”

This is a tricky situation for the FSF. Due to privacy issues they can’t, and probably shouldn’t, say more on this matter. By the same token, I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to the conclusion that Rowe or her friend were purposefully being untruthful. When you’re the member of persecuted minority it’s sometimes easy to assume that every action taken against you is the result of your minority status.

Unless we hear otherwise, and directly from Rowe’s unnamed friend, that should be the end of it. Now let’s hope that Rowe and the GNU Project can patch things up and return Libreboot to the fold.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

16 comments to FSF Says Firing Wasn’t Discrimatory

  • AntiSol

    careful with your grammar

    “The alleged discrimination by Ms Rowe”

    should read:

    “The discrimination alleged by Ms Rowe”

    this typo changes the meaning quite significantly

  • ntmydestiny

    Methinks this questionable SJW is making much too much of a big rowe about this issue.

  • Sanders

    And that’s why companies will end not hiring “trans-gendered” people.

    The risk of discrimination complains upon job termination is too high.

  • MrData

    I think it’s time to start firing bullies instead of victims. The usual reason for firing someone who becomes a target of bullying is that “their presence is disruptive.”

    Transpeople seems to upset the bully mentality. I suspect it reveals the uncertain self-image that drives them to be bullies in the first place.

  • @AntiSol Thanks for the correction. Today was supposed to be a day off, so I was in a hurry to get this written when informed of FSF’s announcement. You are correct, and the change has been made.

  • Hunkah

    As much as Richard Stallman’s personality bothers me and the things he says bother me more, I’m going to probably agree with this.

    I believe in human rights and freedoms, but I also believe that people have gotten way too super sensitive anymore. People are too fragile and offended way too easily these days. It’s gotten really bad. People are still allowed to have opinions, even if they’re wrong or stupid… on both sides of any argument.

    If this unnamed person is using their transgender position as a get out of jail free card or as a way of saving face, then I hope that issue is publicly dealt with just the same as they have publicly brought it to light. No one should be using stuff like that in any way for any reason. Blaming transgender just keeps the negativity ball rolling.

    Oh I’m sure my opinion will probably offend many, but it’s my opinion and if you’re offended, maybe it’s time YOU change. I’m allowed to believe whatever I want to. Even if I have my head shoved all the way up my ass. Why even care what I think? You obviously are on the other side of the argument. So who wins by being offended? No one. It’s time we all deal with our personal issues and stop crying foul.

  • Brian Kemp

    The important thing to realize here is that Ms Rowe is not the fired party. We don’t know that person’s intentions on the issue, and may never will.

    This is one person being offended on behalf of another. We don’t know at this time if the person who got fired even WANTS this behavior.

  • AC

    SJW capture = an institution incapable of performing its primary function.

    Hire these defective people only if you want to watch your organization torn asunder by insane people doing and saying insane things.

  • Nonya

    There really should only be one question about this person being fired. Which is: Was this person doing their job in a satisfactory manner without being disruptive to other employees or the organization? And why is the person who was fired not the person complaining instead of that person’s friend!?

  • Wykedengel

    It appears that the fried in question was hired with full disclosure of her gender identity. I hope that the FSF, in keeping with the beliefs of freedom both in software developments as well as social issues, would not let someone go on any discriminatory basis.

  • Ronnie

    Welcome to liberal ridiculousness.

  • jymm

    No matter what your status, (race, sex. age, etc.), sometimes the reason you are fired is your performance. Get over it and move on.

  • Sum Yung Gai

    I am also a member of what we’d call a “minority” here in the USA, in my case, a racial minority. You know, “one drop” and all….

    The GNU Project and the FSF that supports it have been promoting freedom for far too long for me to just believe they’re guilty. We also have a tradition in the USA of “innocent until proved guilty”, and I’m going to continue to follow that tradition.

    Therefore, in the absence of proof to the contrary (that’s how we do it here in the USA), the FSF is innocent at this point in my eyes. And should it ultimately be proved that someone in the FSF was guilty of improper discrimination (i. e. not related to actual job performance), then I’m confident that the FSF would fire *that discriminator* at that point and do everything possible to make things right with the discriminated party. Their track record over decades makes me believe this.

    –SYG

  • Purple Library Guy

    On one hand, I think it very likely that the FSF didn’t fire anyone because of their gender (trans or otherwise).

    On the other, it really annoys me when I see people extrapolate any random case of somebody being maybe wrong about discrimination into this entire warfare on “SJW”. So, sure, trans people and their friends are, amazingly, like other people not always perfect, and sometimes bitch about stuff without being right. OH MY GOD IT’S A CONSPIRACY! Somehow because one time someone wasn’t discriminated against that means everyone who ever complained is an evil loonie out to overturn the natural order of things (ie white guys on top). But the reality is minorities really do get discriminated against, make less money, get beat up, get shot by police, commit suicide in large numbers and so on. And the reality is, there’s a heck of a lot more self-righteous dumping on anyone who dares to ask for equal treatment than there is of actual “Social Justice Warriors”, and that’s a major reason why there’s so much . . . social injustice.

    Incidentally, kudos to the FSF for being classy, preserving the person’s privacy by not making any claims about why they were in fact fired even though it would sound more superficially convincing to say it. Well, maybe they’re just being careful of their legal position, but anyway it’s still the right thing to do.

  • Mike

    @Purple Library Guy

    Agreed.

    It’s easy to spot the actual loonies and bigots – always complaining about SJW’s stealing their lunch money or some such thing.

  • Sanony

    This individual was fired after complaining about harassment. It was a retaliation firing. John Sullivan should have explained that in his statement – that this employee was great at their job but was fired because they were uncomfortable working in an office where they were harassed regularly. The FSF does not have a good reputation for working with diverse staff. I have volunteered in their offices and would never again. The atmosphere is very male-bonding oriented and the women worked there while I was volunteering (two of which have been fired in the past several months after having issues with harassment) seemed to keep to themselves and work diligently. I believe they have never hired a black person, and alienation of volunteers of color is an ongoing issue.