The Chief Executive Officer of Uber, Travis Kalanick, on Tuesday said he was taking an indefinite amount of time off from the company, which is currently in the throes of controversy over its hostile work culture, in particular for women. A management committee is expected to run the company in his absence.
Kalanick’s decision, which he said would give him time to grieve for his recent departed mother, came hours after a company-wide meeting held to discuss the results of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying in the firm.
The probe was led by former United States Attorney General Eric Holder and made a total of 47 recommendations to revamp Uber. These included setting up a board oversight committee, banning romantic relationships between employees and their immediate superiors, reducing the amount of alcohol at office events and completely restructuring Uber’s values.
Claims about Uber’s sexist work environment were ironically confirmed at the very same meeting, when one of its board members, the billionaire David Bonderman, joked that more women on the board would merely lead to “more talking”. Bonderman later resigned from the board after admitting that his untimely crack was “inappropriate”.
Kalanick’s time off and the Eric Holder recommendations come soon after there were reports that the company’s board might ask him to take three months off amid the growing complaints.
What is the chaos at Uber about?
The investigation began after a former employee alleged sexual harassment and sexism at the company in a blogpost in February 2017. The woman, who had worked for Uber between November 2015 and December 2016, had further alleged that the company’s human resources department did not act on her accusations.
Recently, Uber fired its Asia-Pacific business head Eric Alexander after it was found that he had made copies of and shared the medical records of a woman who had been raped while using the company’s taxi service in India in 2014. He is believed to have shown the medical records to Kalanick and Michael. The development follows reports that the firm had laid off more than 20 employees following a company investigation into sexual harassment and other allegations.
Uber has been embroiled in several controversies lately. It faces a lawsuit from Google’s owner Alphabet over allegedly stealing trade secrets from them related to self-driving cars, and separately, a video showing Kalanick involved in an argument with an Uber driver, for which he faced sharp criticism. The company’s Senior Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal had resigned in February 2017 for failing to inform them a sexual harassment allegation made against him while he had worked at Google.