GitHub, an immensely popular and influential social network for software code, is in the midst of a harassment controversy that's captivating (and horrifying) the industry. But the married couple at the center of Julie Ann Horvath's harassment story have remained anonymous—until now.
Tom Preston-Werner co-founded GitHub, and accordingly ran the place. But in a detailed report provided to TechCrunch by Horvath—one that only described a GitHub "founder" and a "wife" as chief antagonists—we can see that Tom Preston-Werner's wife, Theresa, positioned herself as a workplace bully and power-tripper beyond any actual GitHub executive.
From the TechCrunch account, all emphasis added:
According to Horvath: "I met her and almost immediately the conversation that I thought was supposed to be causal turned into something very inappropriate. She began telling me about how she informs her husband's decision-making at GitHub, how I better not leave GitHub and write something bad about them, and how she had been told by her husband that she should intervene with my relationship to be sure I was 'made very happy' so that I wouldn't quit and say something nasty about her husband's company because 'he had worked so hard.'"
The wife also claimed to employ "spies" inside of GitHub, and claimed to be able to, again according to Horvath, read GitHub employees' private chat-room logs, which only employees are supposed to have access to.
The aforementioned wife began a pattern of passive-aggressive behavior that included sitting close to Horvath to, as she told TechCrunch, "make a point of intimidating" her.
The next thing I knew the wife was in my face at my work station verbally attacking me. She demanded to speak with me in private to which I said no. I asked her in a very calm way to leave me alone and told her she was making me uncomfortable. There is an eye-witness to this event.
I was shaking in horror and felt my adrenaline pumping harder than ever before. I was proud of myself for not reacting, though.
We've confirmed with a GitHub employee that "the wife" is in fact Theresa Preston-Werner, making her husband complicit in covering up (or at least condoning) repeated allegations of harassment and abuse at the company he helped create. We're told this is certainly not the first time the Preston-Werners have treated a female employee this way: Melissa Severini, the company's very first hire, was allegedly paid to sign a non-disparagement agreement after being victimized by Theresa Preston-Werners and subsequently terminated. Other employees have been pressured to do pro bono work for Theresa Preston-Werner's own startup, Omakase.
Responding to a query from Valleywag, GitHub said it has no comment at the moment beyond a blog post from last night:
We know we have to take action and have begun a full investigation. While that's ongoing, and effective immediately, the relevant founder has been put on leave, as has the referenced GitHub engineer. The founder's wife discussed in the media reports has never had hiring or firing power at GitHub and will no longer be permitted in the office.
The duo have been silent on social media and and unresponsive to questions from Valleywag since Horvath went public with her story, beyond this quiet reference:
Was just gonna tweet that Jackson got into my favorite school, and then discovered this whole mess. Flabbergasted.
— TheresaPrestonWerner (@tpdubs2) March 16, 2014
Even if Preston-Werners never had actual "hiring or firing power," the regular presence of a co-founder and company president's wife in the office has its own de facto power.
If Horvath's allegations have any weight, it would appear that's power she and her husband have abused for years.