Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said on Sunday evening that the company will launch an investigation into serious accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination made by a former engineer for the ride-sharing service.
In a lengthy blog post, former Uber employee and best-selling author Susan Fowler Rigetti details a number of concerning incidents she experienced during her year with the company.
Kalanick called the accusations ‘abhorrent and against everything we believe in,’ and said he’s instructed a new chief human resources officer to conduct an ‘urgent’ investigation into Fowler’s claims.
He continued: ‘There can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber.
‘Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.’
Huffington Post creator and Uber board member Ariana Huffington has promised to aide the human resources officer in the investigation.
In Fowler’s post, titled ‘Reflecting on One Very Strange Year at Uber,’ the author recounts being propositioned sexually by a manager on her first day at the office.
Using the company chat system, she said that the unnamed manager told her that he and his girlfriend had an open relationship, but that his girlfriend was having an easier time finding sexual partners than he was.
He continued, saying that he wanted to stay out of trouble at work, but that it was difficult because he was trying to find women to have sex with, Fowler said.
‘It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR,’ she continued.
According to her account, she joined the company as a site reliability engineer in November 2015. At that time, she says, about 20 per cent of the employees in her field there were women – compared to just three per cent on her last day.
Despite her reporting the incident to management, the manager received no repercussions from his actions apart from a ‘stern talking-to’, she was told, because he was a ‘high performer’, meaning he had positive reviews from superiors.
She said that both HR and upper management officials didn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was ‘probably just an innocent mistake on his part’, and was a ‘first offense’.
It was not, however, this manager’s first offense, Fowler discovered after discussing the matter further with fellow female employees. She said many women had experienced similar sexual harassment in the office, and some even from the same manager.
In response to Fowler’s report of the incident, Uber HR reportedly told her that she could choose to either move to another team and not have to interact with the problematic manager, or remain on the same team – but to be aware that the manager would probably rate her poorly when it came time for performance reviews.
Fowler said that one HR representative explicitly told her that a negative performance review ‘wouldn’t be retaliation’ because she’d been given a choice whether to remain on the team.
Following another incident in which she claims Uber reportedly refused to purchase leather jackets for the six women on the engineer team despite buying them for the over 100 men in the company, Fowler again found herself in a terse meeting with human resources.
Although she had at this point expressed countless concerns via chat and email to the HR team, the representative allegedly told her there was ‘absolutely no record’ of the incidents she claimed to have reported.
A breaking point for Fowler came shortly after, during a one-on-one meeting with her new manager. She says he told her that she was on ‘very thin ice’ for her continued convergence with to human resources, and threatened to fire her if she did so again.
She alerted him that such action would be illegal – and again reported the threat to HR and upper management – though no action was taken, she later found out, because of her manager’s status as a ‘high performer’.
The ramifications for Fowler were substantial during her year with the company, and affected her professionally by having two transfer attempts blocked and rendering her ineligible for the Stanford University computer science graduate program she was enrolled in.
In the post, she claims to have overheard her manager bragging that although the company was losing women, he still had some on his team. The only explanation she says she received for having her transfer attempts blocked were that she was not showing signs of an ‘upward career trajectory’.
Fowler has moved on to write a best-selling book on computing theory and has been invited to speak at major technology conferences.
Courtesy: The Daily Mail