Uber Agrees to Pay $4.4M to Settle Sexual-Harassment Claims

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP December 20, 2019
Uber Agrees to Pay $4.4M to Settle Sexual-Harassment Claims

Uber Technologies reached a nationwide settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to resolve sexual-harassment and retaliation claims and improve its business culture.

The EEOC launched an investigation in 2017 and found evidence that Uber violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by tolerating a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation, according to an agency announcement. Under the agreement, the ride-hailing company will set up a class fund of $4.4 million to compensate victims for sexual-harassment and related retaliation that occurred after Jan. 1, 2014.

"We've worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do," said Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West. "I am extremely pleased that we were able to work jointly with the EEOC in continuing to strengthen these efforts."

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi hopes the agreement will "empower women in technology to speak up against sexism in the workplace knowing that their voices can yield meaningful change."

Changes at Uber

Uber has agreed to create a system to identify when more than one complaint has been made against an employee and to note when managers fail to timely respond to complaints. Additionally, Uber will work with a consultant to update its policies and will continue conducting employee surveys and exit interviews that address workplace sexual harassment and retaliation. "This resolution demonstrates the benefits of working cooperatively with EEOC and serves as a model for businesses committed to truly leveling the playing field where opportunity is not circumscribed by one's gender," said EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon.


Agency Focused on Harassment Prevention

The EEOC has been focused on harassment prevention for the last several years, particularly through its select task force on the study of harassment in the workplace. In fiscal year 2018, the agency received 7,609 sexual harassment charges—13.6 percent more than during the previous year—and recovered $56.6 million for victims of sexual harassment, according to the agency's website. "We cannot look back on last year without noting the significant impact of the #MeToo movement in the number of sexual-harassment and retaliation charges filed with the agency," said EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic, co-chair of the task force.

(SHRM Online)

Sexual-Harassment Allegations

In 2017, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler made allegations of discrimination, sexism and retaliation at the Uber office where she worked in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fowler wrote a blog post alleging 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 secretly doctored with negative remarks in apparent retaliation for having gone to HR. Uber faced numerous other complaints and, after an internal investigation, fired a number of employees, including some senior executives.

(SHRM Online)

Beware of Retaliation

Each federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees and job applicants who engage in protected activity—such as making a harassment complaint or serving as a witness in an EEO matter. Employers have to be very careful not to treat an employee who complains differently from how they treated that employee before the complaint.

(SHRM Online)

Opening Culture-Change Discussions with Your Team

Sexual harassment remains a problem in many workplaces despite years of mandatory training for supervisors to prevent it. Getting in front of the problem in the truest sense requires raising accountability and an awareness of inclusion and respect in the workplace.

(SHRM Online)


[Visit SHRM's resource page on workplace harassment.]



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