Santa Clara University


Business Ethics in the News

Back to Blog

MOZILLA: Mozilla CEO Under Fire for Prop 8 Contributions

Monday, Mar. 31, 2014
Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Mozilla, the makers of the popular web browser Firefox, is facing a media firestorm in protest of their recent promotion of Brendan Eich to CEO. Eich was an internal promotion for the company, having been CTO since 2005, but it’s Eich’s $1000 contribution to the 2008 anti-gay marriage “Proposition 8” that sparked the controversy. Mozilla, a nonprofit organization, is heavily committed to “keeping the web open” as well as values such as equality and inclusivity. In response to Eich’s promotion a number of key employees and developer groups called for his resignation on Twitter and other social media sites. Eich responded in a personal blog post that he would continue Mozilla’s effort of “commitment to equality in everything we do.” Critics are largely unsatisfied by the response, demanding either a retraction and apology from Eich or his resignation. Complicating matters, three of Mozilla’s six board members resigned this week, citing their desire to hire an outsider with expertise in mobile computing. Can a CEO have personal values that conflict with the values promoted by the organization?

  Kirk: If Eich were anything but the CEO (or perhaps a C-level executive), this would be a nonissue. Employees are clearly entitled to have their own views on matters, regardless of whether they conflict with those of the company. The question is, when does one’s personal values become inextricably linked to the identity of the company? It’s safe to say that CEO is on the other side of that threshold. Eich’s blog post reiterating his commitment to equality and inclusivity at Mozilla is a step in the right direction, but the critics’ demands for a full explanation are not unwarranted.

  Patrick: This is a tough one. In my book, Eich is entitled to his personal beliefs, but employees are well within their right to question the new CEO’s ability to reflect the company’s values. Like mixing Diet Coke and Mentos, some things just don’t go together. It leaves me wondering what the CEO hiring committee expected to happen here, particularly given the desire to hire a mobile oriented CEO by half the board. This case also leaves us with an interesting question: does Mozilla’s commitment to inclusiveness and openness demand that they embrace Eich and his views, despite disagreeing with them?

Objecting to new CEO, resignations sweep Mozilla board (CNET)

Inclusiveness at Mozilla (Eich)

A Framework for Thinking Ethically (Markkula Center)


NEXT STORY: Is Oculus Leaving Early Backers Out to Dry?

Comments Comments

Alexa said on Apr 6, 2014
I do not believe a CEO should add their own personal values and beliefs into their career. I believe a personal view and a professional view should be kept seperate for a number of reasons. One, this will cause controversy to the employees in the company that could potentially hurt the business. Two, consumers may disagree upon what employees of the company believe in, especially the CEO, and be influenced to walk away from the company. - Like - 2 people like this.
Patrick said on Apr 6, 2014
Alexa, thanks for your comment. What do you think about Eich never publicly expressing his views on gay marriage? (It was only found out because people dug through his public records) - Patrick - Like - 3 people like this.
Dave said on Apr 7, 2014
This truly concerns me. Eich didn't mix business and personal, and his coworkers report him as inclusive and a great choice for CEO. It concerns me that the current LGBT establishment doesn't seem to have any respects for personal beliefs. Should the 40% of the nation that opposes gay rights be automatically removed from the running for CEO positions? - Like - 8 people like this.
Robert said on Apr 16, 2014
We now know that Eich's modest contribution supporting Prop 8 wasn't unusual for the California tech industry. We also have learned that his contribution was leaked by the IRS. While people may disagree with Eich's personal views, it seems to me that we need to reeducate our citizens about true tolerance, and seek to create an environment where public figures aren't denigrated (or asked to resign their job) for their personal views. Tolerance is a two-way street. - Like - 4 people like this.
Patrick said on Apr 16, 2014
To both Dave and Robert - I share the same concerns. Eich didn't get a fair hearing here. Then again, I do empathize with the employees who feel strongly about this issue spoke out. Ideally it would've led to a continued conversation as opposed to a witch hunt. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Greg said on Apr 22, 2014
Patrick, The employees are free to have a strong opinion, as does Mr. Eich. As Robert and Dave both point out, tolerance and respect is a two-way street. No person should be barred from employment solely based on their beliefs. Even their actions must be judged in the context of the agents purpose and intention, and all given the opportunity to explain and defend. - Like - 2 people like this.
Patrick said on Apr 22, 2014
Greg, I hear your point, but I think the statement "no one should be barred from employment" doesn't do justice to the situation; particularly, Kirk's point about the special role of the CEO. Again, I don't think Eich got a fair hearing, but I think we have to distinguish general employment from occupying the head leadership role of the company. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Greg said on Apr 23, 2014
The role of Eich in the company should not supercede his rights as a member of society to have, form, and express his opinion. If Mr. Eich actively prevented others from expressing a differing view point, there would be an issue. In this instance, Eich supported and promoted a variant perspective, but did not silence or impede others from stating and supporting their opinion. There are a multitude of reasons to support or prevent gay marriage. Without the variety of opinions being voiced, we trade one tyranical opinion for another. It could be a great example if the CEO and Mozilla simultaneously promotes or supports both side of the issue, beining a real example of tolerance and inclusivity. - Like - 7 people like this.
Nik said on Nov 20, 2014
Love it Greg! - Like
Post a Comment