Rifts Break Open at Facebook Over Kavanaugh Hearing

Some Facebook employees noted that according to the company’s internal human resources software, Mr. Kaplan had not taken a personal day to attend the hearing. Only later last Thursday did someone at Facebook update the system to say Mr. Kaplan had taken a personal day, said the current and former employees.

At last Friday’s staff meeting, Mr. Zuckerberg defended Mr. Kaplan’s appearance as a personal decision that did not violate company rules. Mr. Zuckerberg also said he trusted Mr. Kaplan’s judgment, even though he himself would most likely not have chosen to attend the hearing, said two people who were at the meeting.

The messaging backfired. Some employees — particularly women — said it came across as if Mr. Zuckerberg was shrugging off Dr. Blasey’s comments about sexual assault, saying that the chief executive’s remarks had caused “stress and trauma” and were “painful to hear.”

Many female employees were also upset that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, who has made women’s issues a personal platform and project, did not publicly say something about Dr. Blasey and sexual assault. Mr. Kaplan is known as a friend of Ms. Sandberg’s, with the two having gotten acquainted at Harvard, which both attended.

Ms. Sandberg posted internally last Friday, writing, “As a woman and someone who cares so deeply about how women are treated, the Kavanaugh issue is deeply upsetting to me.” She added, “I’ve talked to Joel about why I think it was a mistake for him to attend given his role in the company.”

In one internal Facebook group that is aimed at supporting female employees, dozens of women this week posted accounts of their own struggles with sexual assault. Mr. Kaplan’s attendance at the hearing made them uncomfortable, they wrote, according to posts reviewed by The Times. Several said they would not feel comfortable working in the Washington office under Mr. Kaplan.

Other employees began criticizing Mr. Zuckerberg directly in recent days.

“I appreciate your desire to avoid taking sides, but please don’t insult our intelligence by declaring that this act did not violate our policies, or that it was only an honest lapse in judgement,” one engineer wrote in a post addressed to the chief executive. “Please don’t tell us that you know how hard it is for us when it is very clear from your words, your actions and your tone that you don’t.”