Facebook employee Qin Chen died by suicide in September by jumping out of a window of an office building at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus. When Facebook engineer Yi Yin demanded answers from the company and spoke to the media about the incident, he was fired, Vice reports.
Yin spoke on the record to ABC News in September while he led a protest in the wake of Chen’s death.
“We need the truth, we need the fair investigation on what on earth happened,” Yin said in an interview with ABC.
A video of him leading chants at the protest went viral in China.
Yin told Vice he wants to stand up on behalf of Chinese engineers at the company who are afraid to speak out against toxic working conditions because of their precarious visa situations.
Many Chinese workers at Facebook are on H-1B visas, which are for specialty temporary workers in the U.S. A worker’s eligibility relies on the employer vouching for them, so if an employee loses their job, they also lose their immigration status.
Chen’s suicide drew attention to the issue that international workers may be facing unfair working conditions at Facebook, which may be taking advantage of their delicate documentation. Chinese American activists have been raising concerns about the treatment of work visa holders in Silicon Valley.
Chen’s suicide opened up the door for other current and former Facebook employees to discuss the mistreatment they have faced. In short, Chen’s suicide was likely not the result of an isolated incident.
Yin said he wanted a full, transparent investigation into the incident and what led up to it. Yin said he didn’t know for sure what led Chen to jump but said that he believed rumors that Chen was mistreated by a manager and given an unfair performance review, according to Vice.
Chen worked in Facebook’s advertising engineering department, known for being highly stressful, CNBC reports. Facebook’s Performance Cycle review process has come under fire for penalizing workers who perform well but do not socialize with their colleagues.
However, instead of transparency, Facebook evidently delivered the opposite. Yin shared with Vice an email an HR representative sent him.
“To respect the privacy of the employee and his family please do not discuss the incident with anyone especially outside the company,” the email said.
When Yin was fired on Oct. 7, the email he read said the company would no longer be paying for his trip back home to China and reminded him that he signed a confidentiality agreement upon being hired.
“I also want to remind you of the obligations that you agreed to when you signed the Confidential Information and Invention Assignment Agreement, which is attached for your reference,” the email said.
Facebook issued a statement to CNBC on Monday, saying Yin was not fired for speaking to the press, but rather for other policy violations that it did not specify.
“This employee was not fired for joining a protest or talking about the recent tragedy on our campus,” Facebook told CNBC. “He was here for a matter of weeks and showed poor judgment in a string of policy violations. We won’t stand for our employees intimidating one another. We won’t get into the specifics of confidential, internal conversations.”
Yin has been outspoken about the process and when he was fired, he posted on LinkedIn that his firing was his “return to freedom.” His story has gone viral within the Chinese and Chinese American communities. On his listed experience on LinkedIn, Yin added “protesting” to his job duties.
He now only has two months to find another job before his visa expires.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.