Recent allegations by former staff at the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, accusing management of bullying and other offenses including anti-union retaliation, have prompted other former staff to come forward. Aside from echoing claims about mistreatment of staff, one former staffer alleged departing employees often are pushed to sign non-disclosure agreements and questioned the practice in light of the allegations.
Last month, former Wikimedia Foundation staffer James Hare published a statement in a Wikipedia discussion area regarding his experience working at the Foundation and alleged that he was often mocked and ridiculed in connection with his autism by high-level management, leaving him with post-traumatic stress. In response, several former staff came forward with their own allegations of mistreatment. The former staff claimed complaints about their own mistreatment or efforts to reform the Foundation’s practices, such as attempts to organize a staff union, had prompted retaliation from management.
Site co-founder Jimmy Wales, who sits on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, was queried about the matter by Wikipedia editors, but rebuffed them by stating that appealing to him was inappropriate as he considered himself merely part of the site “community” and suggested the official channels for complaints, despite allegations including the inadequacy of those channels in addressing concerns. Following Breitbart’s coverage of the allegations and follow-up stories in other outlets, more former staff came forward to support the allegations.
Melody Kramer, a former Senior Audience Development Manager at the Foundation, linked to the Wikipedia discussion on Twitter and stated the allegations resonated with her as a former staffer. Caroline Sinders, a former Foundation product analyst, posted a similar statement to Twitter. Maria Cruz, former Communications and Outreach Project Manager, added her own allegations of having experienced threatening behavior at meetings and misconduct reports being neglected, among other mistreatment. Cruz also criticized the Foundation for “lack of inclusion” in an allegation inconvenient for the organization as it seeks to address criticism of Wikipedia’s alleged “gender gap” and “racial equity” issues.
Following these allegations, Sinders questioned an alleged Foundation practice of having departing employees sign non-disclosure agreements, though stating she herself did not sign one. When one person commented asking how the Foundation could get employees to sign such agreements before leaving and whether it involved large severance packages, former Foundation Grants Program Officer Kacie Harold remarked: “It’s hard to walk away from any severance if you’ve been underpaid and poorly treated for a few years.” Sinders affirmed Harold’s comment.
Adding further about her experience at the Foundation, Sinders claimed firing practices often involved management acting without warning. She alleged that staff were not given performance improvement plans, but management would claim they attempted to address issues with staff by, as Sinders alleges, “yelling and gaslighting someone into working enough work for two people and giving confusing directives.”
The Foundation has not issued a statement regarding the flood of allegations, though Wales stated following the initial allegations of mistreatment that those claims were being investigated. Repeated attention on alleged mistreatment and bullying of staff comes amidst current efforts by the Foundation to implement a “code of conduct” for staff and volunteers at Wikipedia and affiliated sites. Corporate media have praised the efforts as “diversity” issues the “code of conduct” purports to address are one of the few areas where Wikipedia has not enjoyed recent praise from media.
T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.