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GitHub’s former lawyer sues, claims she was fired for asking for equal pay



GitHub_Keynote_Day_1 2 Chris Wanstrath
GitHub cofounder CEO Chris


  • As Microsoft works on closing its $7.5 billion deal to
    buy GitHub, the company has been slapped with a $20 million
    lawsuit from a former attorney.
  • The lawyer is suing GitHub alleging that that the
    company underpaid her in stock and that her boss, Julio
    Avalos, then fired her for asking for equal pay.
  • GitHub seems to regularly come under fire over its
    culture by former female employees.


When Microsoft
agreed to pay
$7.5 billion to buy GitHu
b, a massive premium over its
previous $2 billion valuation, one person heard about the deal
and was angry: GitHub’s former Associate General Counsel,
Agnes Pak, as indicated in a new lawsuit filed by Pak.

Pak is suing GitHub alleging that that the company underpaid her
in stock and then fired her for asking for equal pay.

Her lawsuit claims that her boss, Julio Avalos, acknowledged
that she was “light” on stock options when she first asked him
about it shortly after she was hired in June, 2017.

The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Friday, says
he and the company put off her request to level up her stock to
what others had received until her annual review in April 2018.

At her review, she received an increase in salary and a hefty
cash bonus, but not what she wanted, what she thought she was
promised: the stock.  Her starting pay was $255,000 per
year, and she had been granted 85,000 shares of stock that
began vesting after she was there one year.

The pay was fair to better than average for companies about the
size of GitHub, according to leaked data from VC
firm Andreessen
Horowitz published by Business Insider.

But Pak had reason to believe that others at the company with
less experience than her had been offered more. 

In April, a few weeks after her review, she scheduled a meeting
with HR to talk about the stock again and Avalos fired her, the
lawsuit alleges. He described her complaints to HR, management
and her team about her pay as “unprofessional,” the suit alleges.

Pak also claims that her final performance review was altered
after she was fired, with the high marks changed to low ones.

Because she was fired before her first year was completed, she
was stripped of all of her stock, her lawyer said.

She’s suing for $20 million in stock – what she thinks she’s owed
based on what others were paid –plus punitive damages, which
the statute says can be as much as double. She also wants her job

“Avalos thought it unprofessional to complain about compensation
… so she’s fired?” Pak’s lawyer Adron Beene told Business
Insider when asked for comment. “She’s a lawyer. Who is going to
stand up against this?” 

GitHub has some 1,000 employees and not all of them work out. But
GitHub has been caught in turmoil and drama over employees
speaking out against its culture for years. Back in
2014, Julie Ann Horvath famously leveled allegations of
harassment by management and sexual harassment by a fellow
employee that ultimately led to founder CEO Tom
Preston-Werner’s resignation.

GitHub Julio Avalos
chief business and strategy officer Julio

Brainstorm 2018

Cofounder Chris Wanstrath became CEO in Preston-Werner’s wake and
Avalos became Wanstrath’s right-hand man. Avalos amassed a lot of
power at the company under Wanstrath, rising from top lawyer to
chief business officer, running the legal, HR, and finance

In 2016, the company went through another round of turmoil,

Business Insider reported at the time,
as Wanstrath
reorganized the company. He tried to tackle GitHub’s reputation
for having an unwelcoming culture head-first, hiring a diversity
expert. That expert left in 2017. 

Last year, well-known transgender programmer Coraline Ada
Ehmke was fired from her job at GitHub and
also talked to Business Insider
about her frustrating
year there, where her personality was constantly being
criticized, she said. 

In the meantime, Microsoft is working on closing its deal with

According to one person knowledgeable with that situation,
shareholders including GitHub employees, could soon get a package
of papers that includes something known as a “280G.” That’s an
IRS rule involving the tax liabilities of highly paid individuals
when a company is sold. And it often reveals to shareholders what
top employees are paid.  

“A ton of employees, a lot of them shareholders, are going to see
for the first time how grossly overpaid people are at GitHub,”
this person said.

GitHub did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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