Update: February 27, 2017: Uber's investigation into its workplace culture is still in its early stages, but already a major figure at the company has left. According to Recode, Amit Singhal, the company's SVP of engineering, was asked to resign today.
Recode reports that Singhal departed Google in 2016 after a sexual harassment allegation was made against him. Singhal denies the claim and says that it was not the reason he left Google. Recode says its reporters brought news of the allegation to Uber's attention this week.
This piece was originally published on February 20, 2017.
In less than a month, Uber has come under fire again. This time it's for sexual harassment.
Former Uber employee Susan Fowler, shared a "strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story," about her experience working for the tech company.
In a lengthy blog post, the former engineer shared troubling details about her time working for the company. The problems spanned from the first weeks of her employment in November 2015, to her final day in December of last year.
"In my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. 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."
Her expectation was for swift and immediate action by HR, but it was not forthcoming.
After reporting the incident, nothing happened. HR and upper management informed Fowler that despite her claim, it was the guy’s “first offence.” And as a first-timer, this warrants a mere slap on the wrist and a “stern talking-to.”
“He 'was a high performer' (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part," she wrote.
She was given two options, she said. HR urged her to either change departments — meaning she’d be trained all over again, despite producing promising work in her current role — or stay on her current team and receive a negative review from her manager. She changed teams.
After that things got progressively worse, by her account. Fowler soon discovered that not only was it not his first offence, but several other women in the company had reported him.
"Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behaviour, and those who reported him were told it was still his 'first offence,'" she wrote. "The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done."
Notably, the harassment wasn’t coming from just one man or one department. After spending time with the company, and becoming widely recognised for her stellar work, Fowler tried to transfer. Her credentials were in order; she was given a good performance review; she followed every necessary step. Yet, her attempts to transfer were repeatedly denied.
“It turned out that keeping me on the team made my manager look good,” she said. “And I overheard [my manager] 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."
Fowler's blog post details multiple incidents displaying gender bias, including a story company about company gifts, leather jackets, that were awarded to the men, but not the women. When Fowler asked why she and other women were denied their due, she was told, "There were not enough women in the organisation to justify placing an order."
What's even more startling? Fowler noted that when she began in 2015, Uber's staff was comprised of 25% women. Now? It's at 3%. Considering how much the company has grown in the past year, this alone is upsetting.
Fowler's infuriating story sent the hashtag #DeleteUber back into rotation.
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, responded with a statement that an official investigation was being launched.
"I have just read Susan Fowler's blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. It's the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”
In addition to the Kalanick's "investigation," Arianna Huffington is also on deck to perform an independent inquiry into the allegations. "Just talked w/ Travis & as a representative of Uber's Board I will work w/Liane to conduct a full independent investigation starting now," she said.
He Kalanick also noted that Huffington had his "full support."
We will continue to update this story as details unfold.