Former Uber site reliability engineer Susan Fowler accused the company of rampant sexual harassment and human resources negligence in a blog post published today.
Its the latest in a series of eventsthat point to serious questions about Uberscompany culture.
Fowler claims that on her first day out of training, she was solicited for sex by a superior onan internal company chat thread. She then immediately captured screenshots of the messages and sent them to Ubers human resources department. In a healthy organization, such a problem would have been resolved quickly. ButFowler alleges that the harassment only continued, preventing her from moving up within the company.
Upper management told me that he was a high performer and they wouldnt feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part, explained Fowler in her post.
Atthis point,Fowler says in her post that she was given a choice of remaining on the team and accepting, a poor performance review, or moving to a different team.
I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that, further explained Fowler.
Though shedidnt want to leave the role she felt she was best prepared to fill, she switched teams. Work continued, and whileFowler had settled into the new role she regularlyhad conversations with female employees who shared similar stories about HR negligence, even citing unacceptable experiences with the same superior who solicited her. Along with a number of her colleagues, Fowler met once again with HR to make the point that the experiences of harassment were epidemic. Fowler then says thatUber insistedthat the manager had only been accused of a single offense.
Amidchaotic internal politics,Fowler attemptedto transferto a different department, but the company blocked her request. Citing strong performance, she couldnt understand why her request had been denied.
I was told that performance problems arent always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life,’ addedFowler in her post.
She ultimately decided to stay in the same roleuntil her next performance review. But the frustration continued with a second reassignment rejection and a further explanation that her review had been changed after the fact, and that she didnt show signs of an upward career trajectory. As a result, she was shut out of a company-sponsored Stanford computer science graduate program for high-achievers.
Aside from these claims,Fowler also describes in her post a culture of pervasive sexism telling the story of an employee who refused to order jackets in womens sizing because they cost more. No matter how many complaints she brought forth, HR insinuatedthat shewas the common denominator in all of her complaints. Fowler says she wasthreatened andintimidated in an effort to stop her fromreporting transgressions to HR.
In response to Fowlers post,Uber CEOTravisKalanick promisedto investigate the claims. In a statement to Axios,Kalanickmade a point to draw a dichotomy between the accused behavior and what the CEO believes is core to the companys culture:
I have just read Susan Fowlers blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. Its the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.
Uber board member and media mogul Arianna Huffington said in a tweet that she would conduct an independent investigation into the matter. Huffington even released her email address in an effort to make it easier for those with information to come forward.
Sexual harassment is rampant in Silicon Valley, and the worst part is that most of it goes undocumented. If true, Ubers actions to thwartFowlers efforts to report the repeated harassment paint a horrifying picture of the companys internal culture.
Uber is no stranger to being in the negative spotlight when it comes to company culture not just with interpersonal relationships, but in its bigger business model and how it interfaces in the competitive environment for transportation services. In 2014, one of its senior executives (who is still at the company)tolda room full of journalists that Uber runsopposition research on its critics. One of the critics singled out had been very outspoken (along with many others) about how Uber does not take passenger safety seriously enough.
Uberhas, in fact, been the subject of specific incidents involving passenger safety, and, on a wider competitive level, its been accused and occasionally banned for its practices in specific markets. Other accusations involve privacy violations over the access of customer data (some of which have since been settled, some of which still crop up today).
We still dont know the number of female engineers at Uber because the company hasnt been transparent about its hiring Jesse Jackson has made it his priority to change this. But even ifKalanick werentcomplicit,Fowlers experience could speak to how Uber values employee performance with respect to ethics and decency.
We have reached out to Uber and CEO TravisKalanick and will update this post when we hear back.
Source article viahttps://techcrunch.com