More than one-third of the employees at software firm Basecamp abruptly quit last week following a company-wide meeting during which one executive argued Americans do not live in a “white supremacist culture,” according to Verge.
What allegedly started as a conversation about a longstanding company practice of maintaining a list of “funny” customer names turned into a woke debate about racial justice that ended in mass resignations, the outlet reported.
Some employees had reportedly taken issue with the decade-old list, claiming that some of the names for customers laid the groundwork for racially motivated violence.
The debate got so out of hand that Basecamp CEO Jason Fried and his co-founder, David Heinemeier, decided to close the thread and disband a supplemental employee-led committee on diversity, equity and inclusion.
In a follow-up announcement, Fried said that while employees were still free to communicate about political and cultural issues, “it can’t happen where the work happens anymore.”
At-work discussions about “politics, advocacy, or society at large” have become a “major distraction” and are “not healthy,” he added.
Employees then demanded another company-wide Zoom meeting, which erupted into another debate about racial justice. At one point, Basecamp’s head of strategy, Ryan Singer, began to question some of the claims being made by employees.
“I strongly disagree we live in a white supremacist culture,” he said.
“I don’t believe in a lot of the framing around implicit bias,” he continued. “I think a lot of it is actually racist. Very often, if you express a dissenting view, you get called a Nazi … I have not felt this is open territory for discussion.”
After Singer made the comments, two employees reported that they found themselves crying and screaming at the screen.
About a half-hour after the meeting ended, Fried posted an internal note saying that Singer had been suspended pending an investigation.
On Monday, Singer reportedly resigned, along with 27 of Basecamp’s 57 employees.
“On the call, the view I gave was we all want a future where everyone is treated fairly,” Singer wrote in an email announcing his resignation.
“And yet there can be disagreement on whether defining our culture as ‘white supremacist’ helps us to get there,” he added. “The subject is so charged that discussing such disagreements at work quickly leads to misunderstanding, heated accusations, and loss of faith.”