Ex-Reddit Employee Says CEO Ellen Pao Fired Him Because He Had Leukemia

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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An ex-Reddit employee is accusing the company’s controversial CEO, Ellen Pao, of firing him because she thought he was too sick to work after his years-long battle with leukemia.

The employee, David Croach, wrote on the Reddit website on Friday that following a meeting with Pao in San Francisco in February, she called to tell him that he “was to be terminated in less than a week.”

“When I asked what the specific reason was, she had roughly stated that ‘because of our discussion, you are too sick to properly fulfill your duties as Community Manager,'” wrote Croach, who posted the entry under his online moniker, Dacvak.

If accurate — and Reddit did not immediately return a request for comment (Update: A spokeswoman for Reddit responded to TheDC after publication saying that Croach’s claim is untrue but said she could comment further on employee matters) — Pao’s move would be somewhat hypocritical given her high-profile discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins.

Pao sued the company in 2012 claiming that she was fired for gender discrimination. An acrimonious trial ensued, with the company claiming that Pao was fired for performance reasons. A jury sided with Kleiner Perkins and ordered Pao to pay back $276,000 to cover the company’s attorney fees.

Croach’s post comes just days after a popular Reddit employee, Victoria Taylor, was fired under suspicious circumstances. Taylor, who helped monitor the site’s popular “Ask Me Anything” question-and-answer sessions, oversaw one earlier this week with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. In it, Reddit users asked Jackson numerous confrontational questions to which he responded in a scatter-shot manner. (RELATED: Reddit Ask Me Anything Goes Horribly Wrong For Jesse Jackson)

In his post, Croach described his battle with leukemia and praised Reddit’s now-departed CEO Yishan Wong and former general manager Erik Martin for keeping him on while he went through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

“Eventually I was cured of leukemia (or so I thought) and was finally able to begin working at reddit. About a year went by while I worked (mostly remotely) for reddit, until I was once again ready to move to their headquarters,” Croach wrote.

He said that he was cancer-free for the next year and was planning, once again, to move to San Francisco to work at Reddit headquarters.

“Unfortunately, weeks before moving, I had relapsed and my leukemia came back, this time harder than ever,” Croach wrote.

Despite that setback, Croach said that Wong and Martin “made the decision to not only keep my job open, but help me by continuing to offer me payment from the company until I was once again ready to return to work.”

Croach said it wasn’t until late last year that he was able to return to work remotely. He lives near Pittsburgh.

But his excitement was soon tempered when Pao, who joined Reddit in 2013, took over following Wong’s departure in November and instituted a new policy that required all employees to work from the San Francisco office.

In January, Croach said he flew out to San Francisco and attended a three-day seminar. He also met with Pao to discuss his future with the company and his moving plans. He said he planned to move to the Bay area two or three months later, and he says she told him she was “100% fine” with that.

But, Croach wrote: “Less than a month later, in February of 2015, I received a call from Ellen stating that I was to be terminated in less than a week.”

“When I asked what the specific reason was, she had roughly stated that ‘because of our discussion, you are too sick to properly fulfill your duties as Community Manager,'” he claimed.

After Croach pleaded with Pao for his job, he said she relented and said that if he received clearance from a doctor to work from San Francisco he could stay on.

“Unfortunately, a day later, she had called and once again stated that I was fired, stating that work would be too demanding for my health,” Croach claimed.

While Croach said he is thankful to Pao for covering his medical insurance for a year as part of his severance package, he said he is devastated.

“I honestly still don’t know why I was let go from reddit, but it was a devastating blow, especially because I was finally able to return to work after so much time,” Croach wrote.

Croach did not immediately respond to an interview request.

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