Last Sunday, Uber engineer Susan Fowler reported on her personal blog site to the company’s human sources department that she had suffered from inappropriate behavior. Automatically after that, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick sent a wide-range mail in which he addressed an upcoming investigation about the issue as well as he announced the hiring of Eric Holder, U.S. former Attorney General, to help on the case.
According to recent surveys, Fowler’s experience with sexual harassment inside Uber seems not to be so uncommon in the tech industry and its companies, as nearly 60 percent of women in tech reporting receiving unwanted sexual advances, according to the 2016 Elephant in the Valley survey. However, not only the claims are common and similar, but the failed responses to the claims happen regularly.
Over the past years, there have been many sexual harassment cases in the tech field. One of the most notable ones was in 2012, where Ellen Pao’s 2012 gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers failed against Pao. Later in 2014, GirHub engineer reported inappropriate sexual behavior and intimidations against her and in 2016, Amelie Lamont, a former employee Squarespace, alleged sexism and racism from within the company’s executives.
Sexual harassment is one of the most difficult crimes when it comes to determining its veracity. For this reason, even if the perpetrators did receive a fair trail (a thing that already is uncommon), there are more possibilities for them to be released than to be incarcerated, as the number of denounced people without confirmed charges is enormous.
Fowler case investigations: clear sexual harassment?
According to what Fowler writes on her personal blog website, she was asked to have sexual intercourse by a superior executive in a company chat thread. She then proceeded to capture screen shots of the inappropriate solicitude and sent them to the human resources department right away. Fowler says that in any other organization, that claim would have been processed optimally.
Any behavior similar to the one mentioned before would have resulted in a scandal that the company’s leaders would have tried to solve as soon as possible. However, Fowler states that the behavior only continued and got worse, adding even more adverse events to Uber’s recent history.
Fowler explained how she was forced to make a decision after the initial behavioral claim, where she had to decide between 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,” Fowler explained on his personal website.
She said that she felt she was prepared to be in the position, but he changed teams due to the intolerable situation. In her new position, she talked with several female workers that have passed through similar situations even with the same top executive.
In all cases, all the affected woman reported negligence from the human resources department as Fowler said that was unthinkable that the company would not take into consideration so many claims about the same issue with the same person. In that order, Uber stated that they had not received a single complaint about the superior’s behavior, causing Fowler’s and other workers’ rage.
There are several other scandals and claims Uber is suffering currently like passenger safety issues and privacy violations. However, CEO Travis Kalanick will have an interview with TechCrunch in the next days to discuss the topics and clear out all the situations.
Hiring of Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General
In a company-wide mail sent this Monday by Travis Kalanick, the company has hired both Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, both partners at law firm Covington & Burling, to probe the claims that come from Fowler and other female workers.
“[They] will conduct an independent review of the specific issues relating to the workplace environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly,” Kalanick wrote. “Joining them will be Arianna Huffington, who sits on Uber’s board, Liane Hornsey, our recently hired Chief Human Resources Officer, and Angela Padilla, our Associate General Counsel.”
Kalanick has stated that this particular issue becomes urgent as it seems to be a misunderstanding that could be affecting the company greatly, as the story published in Fowler’s blog went viral in just 24 hours.
The CEO ended the memorandum by appointing that they are soon to release a diversity report to inform people about Uber’s work policies. For example, the drive-sharing company has nearly 16 percent of women presence within their workforce, while other businesses like Google almost reach the 20 percent.