Uber fires 20 employees as it looks to sort harassment problems

The report of the firings initially came from an attorney at the Perkins Coie law firm, which Uber hired to assist in a broader harassment investigation at the company and which made a presentation at the company's weekly staff meeting Tuesday. Much of the recent attention has been garnered by a blog post by a former employee who detailed her experiences of sexual harassment and discrimination while at the company.

Fowler, who worked for Uber from November 2015 to December 2016, outlined in a blogpost allegations including claims that her manager propositioned her for sex when she joined and that a director explained the dwindling numbers of women in her organization by saying "the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers". Uber also said it would dramatically increase management training. The post alleged that she encountered sexism and sexual harassment during her time with the ride-hailing company. It was noted that a majority of these claims arose from the company's San Francisco headquarters.

Separately, Uber announced Tuesday that it had hired Apple marketing executive Bozoma Saint John, who will be Uber's chief brand officer.

In addition to the sexual harassment allegations, Uber is the target of lawsuits, boycott threats and a federal investigation into claims that it has used a fake version of its app to thwart authorities. It's also been accused of corporate espionage by Waymo, formerly Google's autonomous vehicle arm.

Despite the limited information at this time, the fact that Uber felt the need to fire 20 people before any information from the investigation has been made public is a poor sign for the company. A further 57 are still being analysed by the law firm brought in by Uber, Perkins Coie LLP. The hotline will remain in operation.

The employee complaints could delay the private $68 billion company's plans to go public.

Problems at Uber are not unusual in the technology industry, given the company's size of more than 14,000 employees, said Wilson, whose firm has done similar work for the biggest tech companies in the nation.

Fowler said she had been sexually harassed by her manager - and that Uber's human resources team had ignored the incidents when she reported it.

  • Zachary Reyes