Ride-hailing company Uber has initiated an internal investigation into sexual harassment accusations made by a former engineer at the company. Company Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick said the issue came to his attention after the former employee, Susan Fowler, uploaded a blog post about her experiences at the company, The New York Times reported. In the post, Fowler said the company’s Human Resources department did not act on her accusations despite her providing evidence.
Fowler said her first manager sent her messages saying that “he was looking for women to have sex with”. “When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to,” Fowler said. The senior management-level employees told her that they wanted to retain her manager as he was a “high performer”, she wrote.
The former employee also detailed other incidents at the company, including sexist behaviour by HR department employees as well as team managers. She said she was threatened with negative reviews, adding that one team even manipulated her performance scores to keep her from transferring out. “Aside from impacts to my salary and bonuses, it [the performance scores] did have real-world consequences – significant consequences that my management chain was very well aware of,” she said.
Fowler, who now works with payments company Stripe, said the workforce she was part of when she joined Uber comprised “25% women”. “By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng[ineering] organisation, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organisation, and those who couldn’t transfer were quitting or preparing to quit,” she said.
In a statement, Kalanick said Fowler’s claims went against “everything Uber stands for and believes in”. “We seek to make Uber a just workplace for everyone, and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber,” he said. Uber board member Arianna Huffington also said that she would assist the company’s HR chief with the investigation.