In Focus: Uber Responds to Harassment Investigation by Firing Senior Executives

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. June 6, 2017
In Focus: Uber Responds to Harassment Investigation by Firing Senior Executives

An internal investigation of long-brewing sexual harassment allegations at ride-hailing company Uber resulted in the firing of 20 employees, some senior executives among them, and continued investigation of 57 other cases of alleged misconduct, The Washington Post reported June 6. The terminations, most of which occurred at Uber's San Francisco headquarters, followed an investigation assisted by law firm Perkins Coie, which focused on individual claims that employees brought through an anonymous tip line, Recode said. The Perkins Coie investigation is separate from an upcoming report from former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., who is now an attorney at Covington & Burling. Uber delivered a summary of Perkins Coie's investigation June 6. A summary of the Holder report, which has been sent to the company's board, is expected next week.

Uber Engineer's Claims Could Offer Lesson on How Not to Run an HR Department

The Perkins Coie investigation and upcoming Holder report are in response to a personal blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who made allegations of discrimination, sexism and retaliation at the Uber office where she worked in the San Francisco Bay area. Her allegations were shocking, including that her manager propositioned her for sex her very first day at Uber, that HR managers told her they couldn't do much because the offender was a high performer and that HR ignored her complaints when her previously stellar performance review was peppered with negative remarks in apparent retaliation for her having reported complaints to HR. (SHRM Online)

215 Complaints Were Filed

Uber faced 215 complaints: 54 alleging discrimination, 47 claiming sexual harassment, 45 for unprofessional behavior, 33 asserting there was bullying, 19 for other types of harassment, 13 retaliation claims, three alleging physical security was endangered and one for wrongful termination. In addition to the 20 terminations and 57 continued investigations, 31 employees are in training and seven have been issued final warnings. The company did not take action in 100 of the claims. (Business Insider)

More Actions Expected

Uber expects to take more action on the report's findings next week. CEO Travis Kalanick has taken other steps to improve Uber's image, such as asking for the resignation of Amit Singhal, the head of software engineering, after learning of a sexual harassment claim at Singhal's former employer, Google. Uber also has hired two women as senior executives, former Apple Inc. executive Bozoma Saint John to serve as chief brand officer and Frances Frei, Harvard Business School professor, as senior vice president for leadership and strategy. (Bloomberg)

Uber's First Diversity Report Shows Male, White, Asian Dominance

Uber's first report on diversity in its workplace, released in March, showed that the company faces the same underrepresentation of women and non-Asian minorities—most notably among executives and tech workers—as most other major tech employers.
(SF Gate

Bystander Training Might Help Fight Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment isn't confined to Silicon Valley, as the allegations against former Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and news anchor Bill O'Reilly suggested. Thirty years after the U.S. Supreme Court held that workplace harassment was actionable, people in powerful positions are still being accused of subjecting workers to inappropriate—sometimes illegal—sexual advances. Among them are former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Idaho state Sen. John McGee and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. In June 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the typical anti-harassment training provided over the years had come up short and suggested that training needs to encourage bystanders to harassment to speak up. (SHRM Online) 

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