Uber launches investigation into sexual harassment claims

On Saturday, Susan Fowler wrote about her experience where her claims of sexual harassment by managers were dismissed by the company, often with the excuse that her bosses were "high performing". What's more, she claimed upper management told her "he "was a high performer"...and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part".

Following her complaint about that incident, an HR representative said she was the "common theme in all of the reports" and asked "if I had ever considered that I might be the problem", she wrote.

It was not, however, this manager's first offense, Fowler discovered after discussing the matter further with fellow female employees.

But over the next few months, as she met more women engineers in the company, she found that some of them had similar stories to hers, including some about reporting the same manager who she had complained about, even before she had joined the company. I tried to escalate the situation but got nowhere with either HR or with my own management chain (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn't want to ruin his career over his "first offense"). "Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, yet those who reported him were told it was still his 'first offense'". Her manager then told her she could lose her job if she kept making reports to HR, she said - something that is illegal under employment law.

According to her account, she joined the company as a site reliability engineer in November 2015. She writes that there was an underlying political jostling among upper management in the engineering department, saying the power struggle was akin to the HBO show Game of Thrones. Her stint in Uber was bogged by a number of sexist incidents, the first of which happened on the first day. After much pushing, she was given only vague explanations, such as "performance problems aren't always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life".

It turned out that keeping me on the team made my manager look good, and I overheard him boasting to the rest of the team that even though the rest of the teams were losing their women engineers left and right, he still had some on his team.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

Her organization within Uber was 25% female when she joined, but had dropped to less than 6% when she was trying to transfer, she said. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization.

The controversy is just the latest to surround the company, particularly on issues around the treatment of women at the firm.

At this 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. We were told that if we wanted leather jackets, we women needed to find jackets that were the same price as the bulk-order price of the men's jackets. But Fowler alleges that the harassment only continued, preventing her from moving up within the company. "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 wrote. "I'm very sorry it happened to you". She immediately screen-grabbed the string of messages and reported the same to the HR department.

A tweet out of the original blog post by Susan Fowler has received nearly 10,000 retweets and 900 responses.

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.

In a statement Uber sent Gizmodo, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick promised "to conduct an urgent investigation" and fire "anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK".

  • Leroy Wright